British royalty mingled with Hollywood royalty at the Britannia Awards on Thursday night at the Beverly Hilton.
Taped messages from J.K. Rowling and Prince William were sent to the guests while Judi Dench, who has played Queen Elizabeth on the big and small screen was among the honorees.
Rowling sent her wishes to Emma Watson, the night’s first honoree. “I’m so glad she wanted to act (after ‘Harry Potter’) because it means we didn’t spoil it for her.”
Watson, who grew up on the “Harry Potter” film franchise described how her pet died during filming of the third movie. “The set decorators made a tiny coffin for my hamster,” she said. “The British film industry is not just an industry but also a family where I grew up.”
By the time honorees Judi Dench, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. were introduced the presenters got a little more raw in their speeches. Dustin Hoffman called Dench “the sexiest broad with the lustiest laugh.”
Dench regaled audiences with stories about how a top producer told her she would never make it in film “because my face was not arranged properly.” While the Albert Cubby Broccoli honoree had never met the filmmaker, she said she “owed Cubby Broccoli for all the Bond films. I had a sensational time making the films.”
Downey was introduced by Jamie Foxx and Jon Favreau. Foxx said when he first met Downey the honoree said he wanted a house. “I thought he should at least have a career,” Foxx said, adding, “When he started to play black people, I started to get nervous.”
“Sometimes I just can’t get enough of myself,” Downey said in his acceptance speech. “It’s ugly.”
Then Downey had his wife, Susan, stand up so the guests could she how pregnant she was. Describing this second pregnancy as rather difficult on him, he said he was on bed rest.
Armando Iannucci presented Louis-Dreyfus’s award and deadpanned, “Comedy is many things but we can all agree it’s not drama. That’s why there’s only one comedy actor honored here among so many actors.”
Louis-Dreyfus was remarkable, he said, because “she’s got five Emmys, which is equal to one BAFTA. Not only is she funny, shockingly for a woman, but thanks to her efforts we have four comediennes now.”
Louis-Dreyfus said knowing she was a winner already was a big help. “There’s no anxiety, I don’t have to put on your ‘I’m so happy Lena Dunham won’ face.” Pretending to stumble through her acceptance speech till Iannucci gave her a sheet, she breezed through it in a non-regional English accent.
Humanitarian honoree Ruffalo, who was presented his award for his work with Water Defense by Josh Gad, said, “Wow, I was convinced I wasn’t going to get this tonight,” before turning serious about the need for clean water. “Our entire existence is wrapped up in water, we need it.”
Director Mike Leigh was introduced by fellow helmer Jim Sheridan. “I hate Mike Leigh, everytime I make a depressing movie, he makes a really depressing movie and wins awards,” Sheridan joked.
Leigh said he wasn’t going to thank anyone but then gave a shout-out to Sony Pictures Classics co-toppers Michael Barker and Tom Bernard. “I made 19 films without scripts,” he said.
The evening was hosted by Rob Brydon, introducing himself as Renee Zellweger, and got huge laughs talking about the Scottish vote for independence. “Trust a Scotsman never to pull out when he says he will.”
BBC America will air the awards ceremony 8 p.m. Nov. 2.