It’s a night to celebrate the best films, actors and filmmakers of the past year, and 2023’s BAFTA Film Awards gave us a revamped ceremony, not one but two-hosts, and a brand-new venue.
German anti-war film All Quiet On The Western Front stole the show – bagging half of its 14 awards – and the best actor winner proved a surprise with Elvis’s Austin Butler taking the gong rather than The Banshees Of Inisherin’s Colin Farrell as expected.
With movie stars aplenty, more fashion than you can shake a stick at and some of the film world’s biggest movers and shakers all in one place, here are some of the other big talking points of the BAFTA Film Awards.
The full list of BAFTA Film Award winners
All the best red carpet looks
How to watch the nominees
Batmobiles, slaps and sausage fingers
There were plenty of silly moments throughout the night, including a skit kicking off the show featuring co-host Richard E Grant having a laugh with Hollywood comedy legend Steve Martin on Zoom, before jumping into a Batmobile and zooming through the streets of London to host the awards in the new venue, Elizabeth Hall on London’s Southbank.
Grant then continued his comedy routine on stage, donning a long, white cape and labelling himself a “fashion icon” to dish out a joke revolving around “late trains”, before a gag about last year’s Oscars – telling the audience: “Nobody on my watch gets slapped tonight,” before slapping himself, twice (a reference to Will Smith’s infamous slapping of Chris Rock at last year’s Oscars).
Grant also wore two watches to the ceremony, in a nod to the complicated timings of the show tonight – the show was broadcast on the BBC from 7pm but with a delay, however the live event caught up with the broadcast by the end (as some bits were cut) and the final four awards went out live.
In what some have dubbed the unlikeliest pairing since glamour model Samantha Fox and Mick Fleetwood got together to host the Brits back in 1989 (Google it if you are too young to remember – spoiler – it isn’t pretty), Grant’s co-host Alison Hammond conducted backstage interviews with the stars in a separate studio.
Talent who graced her daytime-TV style sofa included a queen (Helen Mirren), a king (of rock and roll in the form of BAFTA winner Austin Butler) and a Spice Girl (Geri Halliwell). Hammond applied her exuberant chatty style to the whole affair, and popped into the auditorium for the final three big awards of the night.
Last year’s best supporting actor winner, Troy Kotsur, also dished out some laughs on stage, pulling on a massive, bendy glove, and giving a special wave to best supporting actress nominee Jamie Lee Curtis – in the style of Everything, Everywhere All At Once.
A bit you won’t have seen on the TV…
While it may have been a sparkling evening, there was a little hiccup in the night’s proceedings – and let’s face it, everyone loves a mistake.
As Oscar-winner Kotsur announced the second prize of the night – best supporting actress – via sign language, a miscommunication on the part of the translator resulted in Carrey Mulligan’s name wrongly being called for her performance in She Said.
The announcer quickly corrected the call and announced The Banshees Of Inisherin star Kerry Condon as the winner, who went on to accept her award. It was explained to the press at the event, that while Kotsur and the British Sign Language (BSL) translator had got it right, the American Sign Language (ASL) translator had made the slip up.
Event host Richard E Grant joked later that he had a defibrillator for Mulligan.
With a Carrey and a Kerry in the same category, it’s easy to see how a slip could happen in the heat of the moment. And we can all remember the Oscar mix up when La La Land was wrongly announced as best picture winner instead of Moonlight.. Thanks to the magic of a TV delay and editing, this mistake did not make it to the TV cut.
A political flavour to the night
The first award of the night, best adapted screenplay, also went to All Quiet On The Western Front (a trend that continued through the night), with director Edward Berger paying tribute to those fighting in Ukraine.
Cinematographer James Friend said the film showed how a generation of young German men were “poisoned by right-wing nationalistic propaganda” and he stressed that the film’s message remains “relevant” nearly a century on.
Screenwriter Ian Stokell said the project had been “worth the wait” because the film is anti-war.
Navalny – a film which follows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his close-knit team as they navigate the months after his poisoning – won best documentary.
Sky News spoke to Navalny’s daughter Dasha Navalny on the red carpet, who said: “It’s a weird feeling being here while he is in prison”.
She said her father is aware of the programme’s BAFTA and Oscar nominations, adding that “he told us to tell him all about it in the letters we were allowed to send”.
On stage, the filmmakers say the documentary was made under “constant surveillance”.
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Actress Odessa Rae paid tribute to investigative journalist Christo Grozev who could not be at the ceremony due to “a public security risk”.
“He gave up everything to tell this story, and other stories that need to be told,” Rae said.
Grozev subsequently Tweeted: “Wow.”
Cate Blanchett, Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis were among the stars wearing a blue ribbon to show their solidarity and support for refugees and displaced people around the world, including those affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and other events over the past year, including the Turkey-Syria earthquake.
Colin Farrell, Daryl McCormack, Paul Mescal, Bill Nighy and Angela Bassett all showed their support and pinned on a blue ribbon too.
A spokesperson for the organisation said: “The wearing of the blue #WithRefugees ribbon on the red carpet sends a powerful visual message that everyone has the right to seek safety, whoever, wherever, whenever.”
Is diversity an issue once again?
Representation is always a big talking point come awards season, following previous controversies around diversity at both the BAFTAs and the Oscars.
This year, while the Oscars was criticised for failing to nominate any black women in the best actress category, the BAFTAs made changes to voting which ensured more diversity in their nominations across the board.
However, the winners of all four performing categories were white actors, which is likely to raise further questions as to whether enough is being done to improve the diversity and inclusion of our biggest awards shows.
Live music amid the luvvies
Ariana DeBose gave the first performance of the night, singing Sisters with backing performers.
In a contemporary rap, inspired by the 2023 BAFTA nominees, she referenced nominated actresses like Michelle Yeoh, Viola Davis and Jamie Lee Curtis by mentioning their names in her performance.
While she wore a bright pink jumpsuit for her performance, the dress that DeBose wore on the red carpet – a bejewelled nude outfit by Fendi – had plenty of sparkles but left little to the imagination as it was almost entirely sheer, except for a skin-coloured bodysuit underneath.
DeBose later said she often never watches her performances back, as she gets “a bit judgy [about herself],” but was thrilled “the Brits loved it”.
Rapper Little Simz performed near the end of the show, along with special guest singer-songwriter Joan Armatrading – who showed off her impressive guitar skills live on stage – accompanying Simz in Heart On Fire.
Speaking after the performance, Simz said: “This is my first time [at the BAFTAs] and with the legendary Joan Armatrading… We have great chemistry on stage… When I was 17, I wrote a song called Joan Armatrading so it’s full circle.”
Singer Dylan performed Nothing Lasts Forever ahead of the show’s final four prizes, which helped bridge the gap between the pre-recorded majority of the show, and the final big gongs going out live – the rising star award, best actor and actress and best film.
An emotional farewell – and one omission
The In Memoriam section of the night is always emotional, but this year possibly even more than most with host Richard E Grant becoming visibly tearful as he introduced the section commemorating all the stars and filmmakers who died in the last 12 months.
Stars including Angela Lansbury, Burt Bacharach, Anne Heche, William Hurt, Leslie Phillips, Olivia Newton-John and Robbie Coltrane were all included in the segment.
Grant lost his wife Joan Washington, a dialect coach, in 2021.
Other stars in the audience who also looked visibly moved included Dame Emma Thompson, Martin Freeman, Naomi Ackie and the Prince and Princess of Wales.
However, one omission from the roll-call of late actors left some viewers upset, with Railway Children star Bernard Cribbins missing from the line-up. Actress Sally Thomsett who was a child actress in the 1970 classic, tweeted to say she felt “absolutely appalled” after watching the ceremony, hitting out at BAFTA who she said “should be disgusted with themselves”.
Responding to one Twitter user who asked why Cribbins wasn’t honoured, a BAFTA spokesperson said it was due to “limited time” in the broadcast and the actor would features their online “in memory”. They also said, given his influential work in TV, Cribbins will be considered for inclusion in the next Television Awards broadcast
It’s all about the clothes
For the first time, a costume designer – Sandy Powell – took home the prestigious BAFTA fellowship award.
She dedicated her award to the first teacher who taught her how to sew and “to my mum, and mother’s everywhere”.
Powell did it all in a show-stopping black and white tailored ensemble, proving her win was well and truly well-deserved.