“I’m not going to make any Harvey Weinstein jokes,” Jack Whitehall told Variety on the black carpet inside the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The self-described “weirdo” host of the AMD British Academy Britannia Awards, which took place Friday night, clearly learned from James Corden’s set as emcee of the recent amfAR gala. “It’s like the Oscars — but with less esteem and more drinking,” Whitehall added of the event that celebrates the creative partnership between the British and American entertainment industries.
But everyone else seemed to be talking about Weinstein. “The very strange thing about this scandal is how secret it is,” said John Lithgow, who was on hand to present the award for British Artist of the Year to his “The Crown” co-star, Claire Foy. “All of these shameful episodes happened between two people behind closed doors and that’s why it was able to be kept such a secret or merely a rumor for 30 years,” he told Variety. “I have to think that it’s kind of salutary. I mean, people have really suffered — and now Mr. Harvey Weinstein is going to suffer.”
Foy is confident that conversations about sexual harassment can translate and effect those in the industry across the pond. “The bravery of women to speak up when they felt like nobody would listen can only travel,” she said. “It’s all well and good saying that something that happens in Hollywood doesn’t happen anywhere else. But unfortunately, this is prevalent in every single walk of life. One of my very best friends works for a rape crisis charity in the U.K., and she’s felt ripples of it in her line of work. It can’t but help women hopefully feel encouraged to speak up and know that people care and people will listen.”
Kenneth Branagh, who was being honored for his worldwide contribution to entertainment, waxed philosophic on the subject. “As the Buddhists say: The greatest possibility of advancement occurs at the greatest point of negativity,” he said. “I don’t know if this is that, but it is certainly a horrible point that is sort of a rallying cry for a more civilized, a more caring, a more compassionate, a more kind approach to all human beings — and to try and shift in a major way these clear and abhorrent abuses.”
The evening’s other award recipients included Aziz Ansari, Ava DuVernay, Dick Van Dyke (who joked to Variety that “this means I’m off the hook” for his questionable Cockney accent in “Mary Poppins”) and Matt Damon, who had to return home to Boston for a family emergency and couldn’t attend. The no-show irked Ansari, who made a special trip to accept for his trophy for excellence in comedy. “One thing I hate about honors is that you can’t accept them from home,” the “Master of None” star said on stage. “I tried; they said it was not possible. I asked; they said no. I was in London and I had to fly to L.A. from London to accept a f—–g British award. That is not cool,” he joked.
Outspoken DuVernay wasn’t shy about the subject of sexual abuse when she accepted her award for excellence in directing. “I regard the bond between the director and actor as sacred, I truly do,” she told the crowd. “So to imagine what’s been in the news this week: The harmful manipulation and harassment and emotional violence towards actors in my view is sinful,” she added, obviously referencing Hollywood’s latest scandal involving director James Toback. “We don’t have time to be solely triggered by trauma and outrage. We should be outraged by all of it all of the time.”