Mirren, Mendes and Spacey Grace the Empire Awards

Empire Inspiration award winner Sam Mendes

Frozen but fanatical fans buzzed around the gated-courtyard entrance of London’s Grosvenor House Hotel on March 24. Their aim: to spy not one, not two, but a smorgasbord of movie talent.

The elite British entertainment forces were out en masse, plus honorary Londoner Kevin Spacey, for the 18th annual Empire Awards.

A month-on from hosting the BAFTA brigade, the hotel’s colossal Great Hall had been cleaned and fully prepped, ready to receive a Dan duo — Daniel Radcliffe and Danny Boyle — plus a few hundred other industry insiders.

Sam Mendes snagged a hat-trick of trophies, one of which being the Inspiration award presented by firm-friend Spacey. Mendes divulged, “I loved that Kevin says I know human beings very well — very serious,” nodding solemnly. “Truth is I just typecast. When I’m looking for an immoral, lecherous suburbanite, I go with Kevin Spacey. If I’m looking for a psychotic killer to play Richard III, it’s Kevin Spacey. You can do anything really, as long as you cast the right people!” To which Spacey, by his side, nodded and shrugged, in mock-factual acceptance.

Having escaped from the Shire, Ian McKellen and Martin Freeman were in attendance, the latter on hand to catch the best-actor nod for “The Hobbit.” Not convinced of his win, Freeman bashfully accepted, “I feel slightly awkward getting this, as it’s possible my performance wasn’t the best of the year.”

Pocketing the Legend kudo, Helen Mirren, her hair now lacking its BAFTA cotton-candy-tinge, took her award to a standing ovation, pleading, “Sit down, please, sit down. It’s nearly time for din-dins! I’m more of a leg-over than a leg-end, I have been generally all of my life.”

Catering clearly on her mind, Mirren concluded, “Thank you to everyone in my whole career. I have to say, especially Craft Services, because they have kept me going and kept my performances up. The energy — the cappuccinos that have come at the right moment. So thank you Craft Services, very, very much.”

To Mirren’s undoubted pleasure, dinner was soon served. Post-dining, the refreshments continued across town at Cafe de Paris, with guests committed to celebrating until sunrise, or until the whiskey ran dry, whichever came first.

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