One of the many highlights of the star-studded BAFTA LA Britannia Awards on Saturday night was a stunt pulled by Sacha Baron Cohen.
While he was accepting the Charlie Chalpin award for excellence in comedy, he was joined on stage by Grace Collington, who was said to be a 5-year-old when she acted in Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights; she was there to present Baron Cohen with Chaplin’s cane used in the film.
Then this happened:
Now that the video has gone viral, it might seem like an obvious stunt from the get-go, but for those of us in the room who saw this frail elderly lady sitting on stage for 10 minutes beforehand, it was quite a surprise. Judd Apatow and Salma Hayek had presented Baron Cohen with his award, with Apatow saying, “He has reinvented the wheel and then reinvented that wheel.”
Welsh comedian Rob Brydon hosted the event, he’s not a household name in the US, but he certainly won over the crowd with his impersonations of Michael Caine and Richard Burton, and his quip that “all the winners know they’ve won, like an Iraqi election.”
Chiwetel Ejiofor presented the British Artist of the year award to Benedict Cumberbatch, who said it was “an embarrassment of riches to be accoladed tonight,” and gave special thanks to his parents, promising to bring the award back to sit on his mother’s mantel.
Sean Penn presented the humanitarian award to Idris Elba, and joked that the actor “represents a great dichotomy, he’s manly and English.” Elba was honoured for his work for youth charity The Prince’s Trust, which also helped support him when he was a young aspiring actor. “They steered the course of my career. I probably wouldn’t be standing here if it wasn’t for the Prince’s Trust,” he said.
Jennifer Ehle and Ralph Fiennes presented Kathryn Bigelow with John Schlesinger Britannia Award for Excellence in Directing. The typically gracious Bigelow called Schlesinger “one of my greatest inspirations” and she said she was “extremely humbled to get up here and accept this.”
Shohreh Aghdashloo and Sigourney Weaver paid tribute to Ben Kingsley. He said he was “overwelmed, I’m not just pretending to be,” and dedicated his award to the younger generation of actors. “May your craft remain undiminished, undistorted, untarnished, bright and hard like a diamond. To tell a story is to heal someone somwehre, your vulneraability is your greatest strength,” he said.
The night’s big award, the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film, went to George Clooney. Julia Roberts, barefoot on stage, joked that she was presenting the award because “Brad Pitt is out of town,” and she read some remarks about Clooney by Meryl Streep, calling him “the dream boyfriend you have right out of college.”
Clooney recalled his jobs before acting, including cutting tobacco, working construction, and selling ladies’ shoes. He said that the latter job, forcing him to deal with stretching shoes to fit corn on old women’s feet, was what finally sent him to Hollywood. He said the last 30 years has gone by “in the wink of an eye.”
Clooney said: “In the last 30 some years I’ve easily failed as much as I’ve succeeded — it’s the best way to understand success…I do have a family and it’s a family of actors and directors and writers and — God forbid — agents and studios and journalists. I have been given great opportunities by all of you.”
He ended with the night’s final gag: “If anyone needs their shoes stretched see me after the show.”