Brit Acad toast togas and ‘Tiger’

Bell, Roberts waltz away with best thesp nods

LONDON — “Gladiator” won best film, but Ang Lee took director kudos for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” as the British Academy of Film & Television Arts spread its honors evenly on Sunday.

Jamie Bell was the surprise winner of the actor prize for “Billy Elliot,” while Julia Roberts for “Erin Brockovich” was the more predictable victor in the actress category.

“Gladiator” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” picked up four BAFTA film awards apiece, although “Gladiator” also won the separate Orange Audience award, voted by the general public.

“Billy Elliot” took three awards on its home turf, including supporting actress (Julie Walters) and British film, while “Almost Famous” and “Traffic” snared two each. “Erin Brockovich,” “The Perfect Storm” and “The Grinch” each managed one.

Only “Chocolat,” with eight nominations, went away empty-handed among the main contenders.

Albert Finney got a standing ovation as he was awarded the Fellowship of BAFTA, always the crowning laurel of the night. Mary Selway, doyenne of British casting agents, was a popular winner of the Michael Balcon Award for outstanding British contribution to cinema.

There was a glitzy turnout for the ceremony at the Odeon Leicester Square cinema in the heart of London’s West End. Tom Hanks, Russell Crowe, Geoffrey Rush, Hilary Swank and Juliette Binoche performed double duty as nominees and presenters; Goldie Hawn, Robert Altman and Annette Bening also opened envelopes.

Nonetheless, several winners were not present to pick up their awards, including Cameron Crowe, a surprise winner of the best original screenplay prize for “Almost Famous.”

Benicio Del Toro, who took supporting actor honors for “Traffic,” and Stephen Gaghan, with the adapted screenplay nod for the same film, were also absent.

Julia Roberts was another no-show due to shooting commitments, which gave presenter Hugh Grant (her co-star in last year’s “Notting Hill”) the chance for some clowning with her letter of thanks — “She loves BAFTA, she loves everything about Britain, blah blah,” he read.

Jamie Bell’s hometown victory drew the greatest gasp from the audience, who were clearly expecting either Russell Crowe, Tom Hanks or Geoffrey Rush to be called out. Bell himself was visibly stunned. “I was kinda thinking of not bothering coming, I mean what’s the point?” he said, in reference to the strength of the competition.

Another surprise was Pawel Pawlikowski’s triumph as most promising newcomer in British film, beating both “Billy Elliot” director Stephen Daldry and writer Lee Hall. Pawlikowski is the writer-director of the yet-to-be released low-budgeter “Last Resort.”

“Gladiator” producer Douglas Wick put the film’s success down to “a bunch of crazy perfectionists who really cared — and by the way, most of them were English.” Director Ridley Scott accepted the audience award, voted by over 100,000 people from a shortlist of the top 10 grossing films of 2000.

Pietro Scalia, who won the editing prize for “Gladiator,” described it as “really a small, personal European film disguised as a Hollywood epic.” The film also won the cinematograhy laurel for John Mathieson and the production design award for Arthur Max.

“Crouching Tiger” was named best film not in the English language, and took nods for music (Tan Dun) and costume design (Tim Yip). The normally deadpan Ang Lee, accepting his director award with a huge grin, described the experience as “smashing.”

BAFTA’s even-handedness is due largely to its system of jury voting. The nominees are decided by the whole membership, but the actual winners are chosen by separate juries of between seven and 11 experts — except for the four acting awards and best film, which are voted by all members.

The ceremony itself, emceed with witty urbanity by Stephen Fry, went off without a hitch in its two-hour format. Guests headed off afterwards to BAFTA’s gala dinner at the Grosvenor House Hotel, followed by a party hosted by InStyle magazine.

And the winners are…

Best film:

The Alexander Korda Award for the Outstanding British Film of the Year:
“Billy Elliot”

The David Lean Award for Achievement in Direction:
Ang Lee (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”)

The Carl Foreman Award for the Most Promising Newcomer in British Film:
Pawel Pawlikowski

Original screenplay:
Cameron Crowe (“Almost Famous”)

Adapted screenplay:
Stephen Gagan (“Traffic”)

Actress in a Leading Role:
Julia Roberts (“Erin Brockovich”)

Actor in a Leading Role:
Jamie Bell (“Billy Elliot”)

Actress in a Supporting Role:
Julie Walters (“Billy Elliot”)

Actor in a Supporting Role:
Benicio Del Toro (“Traffic”)

The Anthony Asquith Award for Achievement in Film Music:
Tan Dun (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”)

Film not in the English language:
“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”

John Mathieson (“Gladiator”)

Production Design:
Arthur Max (“Gladiator”)

Costume Design:
Tim Yip (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”)

Pietro Scalia (“Gladiator”)

Jeff Wexler/D. M. Hemphill/Rick Kline/Paul Massey/Mike Wilhoit (“Almost Famous”)

Achievement in Special Visual Effects:
Stefen Fangmeier/John Frazier/Habib Zargarpour/Walt Conti/Tim Alexander (“The Perfect Storm”)

Make Up/Hair:
Rick Baker/Kazuhiro Tsuji/Toni G (“The Grinch”)

Short Film:

Short Animation:
“Father and Daughter”

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