MIKE LEIGH’S ‘SECRETS’ & BILE

“I’d like to thank the Academy” … or maybe not.

It’s a good bet those weren’t director Mike Leigh’s first thoughts when he picked up two of three awards for “Secrets & Lies” at the April 28 British Academy of Film & Television Arts (BAFTA) awards bash. “If Juliette Binoche was surprised (to win the BAFTA for supporting actress), she wasn’t as surprised as me,” Leigh told the audience. What he didn’t tell them was that he had resigned from BAFTA because, in the course of his 20-year career, it had ignored nearly all his films.

The news that he had a beef with BAFTA was revealed a few days later in an interview with British newspaper the Independent. Referring to “Secrets” star Brenda Blethyn’s award for best actress, Leigh says, “This was the first time anybody has ever had a BAFTA award for anything in any of my films or television pieces. I have only ever had two nominations before, and even those were for special short films. I can say nothing more eloquent than those facts. I leave everyone to form their own opinions on that.

“For that reason, I let my membership lapse,” he continued. “When you get best director and best actor at Cannes (for “Naked” in 1993) and not even a nomination at BAFTA, it was then I gave up. As somebody who has contributed fairly largely to the film industry, what that tells you about BAFTA, well, it doesn’t need me to spell it out.”

Leigh was not mollified by his wins for best screenplay and best British film, either: Pointing out that his pic nabbed five Oscar noms, Leigh said, “To have ignored ‘Secrets & Lies’ would have been astonishing behavior.”

In fact, there was very little in this year’s awards haul that pleased Leigh, who expressed disappointment over “The English Patient’s” Oscar triumph. “I actually quite like ‘The English Patient,’ and I like (director) Tony Minghella. … Of course, the famous night out at the Oscars, when you have five nominations and walk away with nothing, was not a nice night out for those of us involved with the film. … It took our great sense of humor not to get pissed off.”

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