The Britannias, as emcee Rob Brydon told the uninitiated are a British award, “And we do things differently in Britain.”
For starters the winners at BAFTA/LA’s Nov. 9 bash at the Beverly Hilton knew they were receiving a prize. For another, anyone who spoke too long wasn’t played off with music. “We tap them on the shoulder and scowl at them,” said Brydon, who also informed the crowd that he’s Welsh, not English.
But the man who brought the house down was honoree Sacha Baron Cohen, who had a killer gag as he accepted the Charlie Chaplin award. An old woman in a wheelchair was intro’d as a co-star in Chaplin’s “City Lights,” and as she lovingly presented Baron Cohen with a cane of Chaplin’s, he walked around like the tramp, tripped and pushed the little old lady off the stage where she was pronounced dead. “I want to thank my personal injury lawyers,” Baron Cohen deadpanned before naming others including his wife, whose name he deliberately mispronounced. (BBC America airs the Britannias Sunday evening at 9.)
The evening had overtones of a roast. Baron Cohen was intro’d by Judd Apatow, who hinted the fix was in. “He didn’t make any comedy in 2013,” Apatow said. “The same amount of comedy as Don Knotts and Knotts has been dead since 2006.”
While most awardees had a couple of presenters Julia Roberts apologized to George Clooney because he was getting only one. “I was chosen to present to George for two reasons,” Roberts said. “One, Brad Pitt was out of town and two, Matt Damon is in town but unavailable.”
As Clooney accepted saying he had no children, Roberts heckled from the sidelines: “That you know of,” Roberts heckled from the sidelines. “That I know of,” Clooney agreed, before adding Hollywood was his family.
Other honorees of the evening were Kathryn Bigelow, who made “family film entertainment like ‘K19: The Widowmaker,’ ‘The Hurt Locker’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’” per Brydon. Jennifer Ehle, who presented to Bigelow, said when the director was a girl she saved up her money for a horse and bought it without her parents’ knowledge.
There were serious moments as well when Benedict Cumberbatch, Ben Kingsley and Idris Elba (who portrayed Nelson Mandela accurately, per his daughter Zinzi) were honored. Kingsley dedicated his award to the youngsters while Elba, who received the humanitarian award for his work with the Prince’s Trust said, “I know I can do more.”
After the kudofest ended the crowd streamed to a nearby ballroom for the afterparty where the likes of Salma Hayek, Baron Cohen with wife Isla Fisher, Bigelow and Apatow carried on the festivities.