Saturday night brought the 22nd annual BAFTA-LA Britannia Awards to the Beverly Hilton ballroom in Beverly Hills. One of the signature events that kicks off awards season madness in Hollywood, the show pays homage to British and non-British talent alike. Honorees this year include Idris Elba for a humanitarian award, Kathryn Bigelow for Excellence in Directing, Ender’s Game star Ben Kingsley for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment, George Clooney (who is out stumping for August: Osage County) for the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film and Benedict Cumberbatch — oh God, yes of course — for British Artist of the Year. But it was the Charlie Chaplin Award for Excellence in Comedy for Sacha Baron Cohen, presented by none-less than Judd Apatow, that stole the night
Brit comedian Rob Brydon hosted, and spoofed Gravity in the voice of Michael Caine, saying “If George Clooney gets an Oscar for floating around in front of the screen, I’ll go down to the Batcave and get the Batmobile and run him over.”
Gary Oldman, in a video tribute to Cumberbatch, joked about the 2010 film they co-starred in: “Can an actor’s name be LONGER than Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy?”
Zindzi Mandela, daughter of Nelson Mandela, said of Elba (who plays the South African president in upcoming film Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom): “My family and I were very happy when Idris was cast to play my father, as he is one of the finest actors today… Idris not only portrays my father brilliantly but shares his generous human spirit.” Sean Penn, presenting Elba’s award for his work with The Prince’s Trust, got laughs by opening with the line: “Idris represents a unique dichotomy: he’s manly and British.”
Michael Caine told Kingsley via video: “You’re one of my favorite actors and one of the all-time greats.” Sigourney Weaver also had kind words for Kingsley, getting kinky by saying, “I can’t think of an actor I would rather hogtie.”
Meryl Streep said of Clooney: “Now England thinks they can claim him? Wow, what’s next? China?” Clooney himself discussed his pre-Hollywood jobs as a tobacco farmer and then shoe salesman, with his face eye-level with women’s feet all day: “And that’s when I decided to move to Hollywood. Anyone who wants to show me their corns can see me after the show!”
But the Charlie Chaplin award presentation was the highlight of the night.
Apatow said of Cohen: “No man has ever deserved an award more than Sacha deserves this, even though this year Sacha did not create any comedy work whatsoever. He is clearly the best, the funniest, the smartest, has the most balls, or at least the largest balls. He’s the most observant Jew I know and is truly a groundbreaker. I love him more than Sean Penn loves Idris Elba — and Sacha does no charity work.”
The house was completely brought down when Salma Hayek and a woman in a wheelchair introduced as Grace Collington, apparently the oldest living co-star of Charlie Chaplin, came on stage to present Cohen’s award. After accepting a cane as a gift from Collington, Cohen commenced a very Chaplin-like jig, tripped and upended Collington’s wheelchair — tipping it over the edge of the stage with her in it. The crowd gasped. When they revered, laughing and realizing it was a stunt, Cohen said: “Grace Collington is the oldest — sorry, was the oldest — I dedicate this award to her. This is obviously a tragedy, but on the bright side, what a great way to go: giving an award to me!”
Cohen gave his Ali G character a brief airing as well, saying: “Big ups! Booyakasha! Good night!”
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