The British Academy of Film & Television Arts/LA’s Britannia Award trophies sport a new design this year. It’s a transformation that did not come easily.
Originally, the Britannia was a crystal plaque that was redesigned by BAFTA/LA governor Arnold Schwartzman into a bowl featuring a mirror image of Lady Britannia facing herself. The early bowls were made from slate, which proved too delicate, so Schwartzman revamped them in titanium.
That change presented its own problems. When Prince Andrew presented a titanium Britannia to Steven Spielberg, Spielberg made headlines by reportedly saying, “This must be the heaviest award any member of the British royal family has ever had to present.” Schwartzman quickly ditched titanium for English oak and bronze.
Next, the bowl’s mirror image was reconsidered. “It was great if you understood what you were looking at, but it wasn’t really appreciated by an American audience,” says BAFTA/LA executive director Donald Haber. “It was a lovely design, but just a bit too esoteric.”
So Schwartzman, a designer himself, had two artists submit proposals and with the board’s approval chose British sculptor John Tribe’s design of a seated classical Lady Britannia.
The statuette is made from Britannia silver, which Schwartzman says is “the purest and most expensive type of silver,” making the award more expensive to produce than the Oscar, whose design hasn’t changed since its base was remodeled in 1945. “It’s still sort of heavy,” Schwartzman admits, “but probably not as heavy as my original titanium award.”