Royalty Reigns at British Oscars; "Queen" and "Last King" Win BAFTAs

News   Royalty Reigns at British Oscars; "Queen" and "Last King" Win BAFTAs
 
"The Queen" trumped "The Last King of Scotland" in the closing moments of the 60th annual British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards ceremony by winning the Best Picture prize, having lost the Best British Film prize to "King" earlier in the evening.
Helen Mirren stars as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen.
Helen Mirren stars as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen. Photo by Miramax

The title performances in both movies — Helen Mirren's Elizabeth II and Forest Whitaker's Idi Amin — were judged the best acting of 2006, as they have been by every other major film organization this year. Jennifer Hudson's portrayal of the stout but stout-hearted Effie in "Dreamgirls" was cited in the supporting category, also extending an unbroken line of awards leading to the main event — The (stateside) Oscars — on Feb. 25.

Hudson was not present at London's Royal Opera House to receive her latest trophy. Nor was another Yank, Alan Arkin, who was a surprise win for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as the cantankerous grandfather in "Little Miss Sunshine." Eddie Murphy, considered a shoo-in for the award in this country for his James Brown-like work in "Dreamgirls," went unnominated in England; instead, the Brits cited wonderful work from some of their own: Leslie Phillips, who plays Peter O'Toole's best friend (and potential grand-uncle-in-law) in "Venus," and "The Queen's" Tony Blair, Michael Sheen.

Unlike its American cousin, the British Academy nominated the Tony-winning performances that Richard Griffith and Frances de la Tour gave in the silver-screen version of The History Boys.

Both Mirren and Whitaker were working with roles written by the same man, Peter Morgan, whose play Frost/Nixon arrives from London March 31 at the Jacobs, starring the aforementioned Michael Sheen as David Frost and Frank Langella as Richard Nixon.

Morgan and his collaborator, Jeremy Brook, won the British Oscar for their adaptation of "The Last King of Scotland," but his "Queen" script lost the Original Screenplay nod to Michael Arndt's "Little Miss Sunshine," which it is also facing for the American Oscar. Whitaker dedicated his win to his grandmother, "who joined the land of our ancestors a couple of days ago," and Mirren did an homage to an actor who also died on Friday — one who was with her on her first acting job and became a lifelong friend and mentor.

"I'm not sure I would be here today if it wasn't for him," Mirren said. Her voice broke when she said Ian Richardson. A Tony-nominated Henry Higgins and a snooty spokesman for Grey Poupon, Richardson was best known as the silkily evil Francis Urquhart in three miniseries: 1990's "House of Cards," 1993's "To Play the King" and 1995's "The Final Cut."

The Yanks who did go to the London awards came away empty-handed. Henry Krieger, who has three new "Dreamgirls" numbers up for Oscars here, saw his prize for score go to Gustavo Santaolalla for his lyric-less music for "Babel." The favored Best Director, Martin Scorsese for "The Departed," was upended by Paul Greengrass for "United 93." And "Cars" animator John Lasseter was overtaken by George Miller's "Happy Feet."

The Manhattan chapter of BAFTA laid siege to The Supper Club on West 46th for its seventh annual BAFTA bash and watched the ceremonies on large-screen closed-circuit live television — sans commercials, which were later added when the event was rerun on the BBC and increased the running time mucho. The actual event lasted a tidy two hours.

Farley Granger, whose biography (written with Robert Calhoun) is coming out next month from St. Martin's Press, was the celebrity of note at the party. "Include Me Out," an old malaprop of Samuel Goldwyn, serves as the title, and it's perfect for a gay actor in Goldwyn's employ. Another movie scribe in attendance was TV Guide's FlickChick columnist Maitland McDonagh, whose book "Movie Lust" was just released by Sasquatch.

The Supper Club was a particularly apt setting for the viewing, since this was where The New York Film Critics just honored some of the same filmmakers as London — notably, Guillermo del Toro, whose "Pan's Labyrinth" got three awards (Best Foreign Language Film, Best Cinematography and Best Makeup and Hair), equaling "King's" victory.

Best line of the evening was a play on James Cameron's "King of the world" speech for his "Titanic" win. When "The Queen" took the top prize, director Stephen Frears took to the stage, resplendent in Woody Allen attire (formal suit with tennies), and yelled "Queen of the world!" But he quickly backpedaled and apologized: "I'm sorry, it was a dare."

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