Dame Helen crowned Queen of BAFTAs

Dame Helen Mirren was queen of the Baftas tonight – winning best actress for her role as the monarch – while her movie was crowned best film.

Dame Helen Mirren was queen of the Baftas tonight – winning best actress for her role as the monarch – while her movie was crowned best film.

While The Queen won two awards, it was almost a case of mission unaccomplished for James Bond movie Casino Royale, despite being nominated for nine film awards.

A “king” also reigned tonight – the best actor prize went to US star Forest Whitaker, 45, for his powerful role as the brutal and bombastic Ugandan leader Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.

Whitaker beat 007 star Daniel Craig, who had hoped to become the first Bond to win a Bafta.

The Departed’s Leonardo DiCaprio, Peter O’Toole in Venus and Richard Griffiths in The History Boys had also been up for best actor.

The Last King of Scotland, based on the book by Giles Foden and shot in Uganda, won a total of three Baftas, including Outstanding British Film of the Year and Adapted Screenplay.

Dame Helen, 61, had always been favourite to land the prestigious best actress prize following a string of awards, including a Golden Globe, for her acclaimed role as the monarch in The Queen.

The story of the Royal Family in the aftermath of the death of Diana, the Princess of Wales, beat ensemble piece Babel, organised crime thriller The Departed, The Last King of Scotland and black comedy Little Miss Sunshine to best film.

Dame Helen had faced fierce competition for best actress from another Dame - Dame Judi Dench, 72, for her role as a lonely but twisted history teacher in Notes on a Scandal.

But Notes on a Scandal went away empty-handed tonight despite being nominated for three awards.

Dame Helen also beat Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada), Penelope Cruz (Volver), and Kate Winslet (Little Children) to the best actress title.

The gong is Dame Helen’s first film Bafta – the Prime Suspect star already has three TV Baftas – and she is up for the best actress Oscar.

She said when she first took the role, she thought it would just be a “parochial film”.

No film swept the board but two titles, Pan’s Labyrinth, the fantasy set against the backdrop of fascist Spain, as well as The Last King of Scotland, won three Baftas each.

British director Paul Greengrass, 51, took the best director title for United 93, the docu-style retelling of the hijacking and passenger revolt on September 11, 2001, on the United Airlines Flight 93, which failed to reach the terrorists’ intended target.

The Queen, which was up for 10 gongs, Little Miss Sunshine, United 93 and Children of Men received two Baftas each.

Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth won Film not in the English Language award - beating Penelope Cruz movie Volver – as well as Costume Design, and Make-up and Hair.

Jennifer Hudson, 25, the American Idol finalist, was awarded best supporting actress for her role in Dreamgirls, the musical film starring Beyonce which is loosely based on the story of The Supremes.

In an amazing victory for a film debut, she beat British actress Emily Blunt, 23, for her role as weight-obsessed and put-open assistant in The Devil Wears Prada, as well as Little Miss Sunshine stars Toni Collette and Abigail Breslin, and the actress Frances De La Tour for The History Boys.

Casino Royale, the 21st film in the Bond franchise, only landed one gong, for best sound.

But there was some good news for Bond – French beauty Eva Green, 26, who smouldered as Casino Royale’s Vesper Lynd, won the Orange Rising Star award.

The award, for the film world’s next big star, is separate to the main awards as it is the only one which is voted for by the British public.

The other film awards are chosen by 6,000 Bafta members.

Green beat Blunt, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw and Irish actor Cillian Murphy to the award.

Best supporting actor was won by American star Alan Arkin, 72, for his role as a heroin-addicted grandfather in black comedy Little Miss Sunshine.

Britons James McAvoy, who played Amin’s doctor in The Last King of Scotland, Leslie Phillips, cast as an elderly actor in Venus, and Michael Sheen, who plays the British Prime Minister in The Queen, lost out.

Former Top of the Pops dancer Andrea Arnold won The Carl Foreman Award for Special Achievement by a British Director, Writer or Producer in their First Feature Film.

Her film, about a CCTV operator, won the Cannes Jury Prize last year.

David Parfitt, chairman of Bafta’s film committee, said: “It has been a brilliant year for film and for British film in particular.

“As is so often the case for our 6,000 voting members, they have spread their votes widely, resulting in films of all nationalities being honoured.”

The Orange British Academy Film Awards, presented by new host Jonathan Ross after Stephen Fry stepped down, took place in The Royal Opera House and were broadcast tonight on BBC1.

Green, sporting an eccentric hairstyle, responded to her win in French fashion with: “Wow, oh la la, la la.”

She told the audience: “Thank you very much. It’s a real honour because I’m French and it’s an English award.

“I have just moved here and have had the most amazing welcome. Thank you very much.”

The actress also thanked co-star Craig in her speech.

Arnold said on stage when she collected her award for Red Road: “I can hardly walk in these shoes. It’s very scary sitting down there when the names go up. You think ’don’t call me’.”

She said of the film: “I’m lucky to come out of the whole experience alive to be honest.”

Arnold thanked the backers of her film for “having faith in a newcomer” and thanked Glasgow, where her film is set, for being a “fantastic city”.

She said: “It’s been a good year for British film, I keep hearing, so I’m very proud to be part of it. My boiler has just packed up so it’s (the prize) very welcome.”

Kylie Minogue, in a blue mini-dress, was among tonight’s presenters, who also included Kate Winslet, Andy Serkis, Sienna Miller in a backless silver dress, Simon Pegg and Ricky Gervais.

Those who did not show at Britain’s most prestigious film awards included nominees Leonardo DiCaprio, Peter O’Toole, Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson and Jennifer Hudson.

Casino Royale’s film-makers thanked “Daniel (Craig) for being such a brilliant James Bond” when they accepted the award for sound.

Peter Morgan picked up the adapted screenplay gong for The Last King of Scotland, and said: “I’m very proud of this.

“It was a wonderful moment watching Forest and Helen accepting awards a couple of weeks ago.

“I wondered whether there might be a sequel. Idi Amin wrote love letters to the Queen. He offered himself up as her lover, saying ’having met Mr Philip I don’t really like him. Come to Kampala and meet a real man.’

“Forest, if you’re listening, there might be some takers.”

Gervais got a laugh when he said of Jonathan Ross, while presenting an award: “He nicked Stephen Fry’s job. At least the Americans knew who he was.”

Greengrass, on receiving the best director award, said: “Oh my word; I’m surprised – and very humble – I must say; obviously because of the subject matter of this film and the scale of the human loss that it’s about, and humble too because of all the wonderful directors that you have acknowledged tonight.”

He thanked Bafta “on behalf of everybody who worked on this film,” adding: “It was a collective effort, the crew and cast.

“It was an amazing journey making this film. We gathered together to try and think about 9/11 and what it meant and what it means today, what it means going on from here, casting a shadow over all of our lives.

“I firmly believe that cinema must also deal with the way the world is and the dangers there are. We need it very much now.”

Whitaker said of his award on stage: “This means a lot because to be embraced by another shore is a special thing.

“I try to think of myself as a citizen of the planet... to touch people in the world.”

He said it was special to get the award in London because “this movie’s genesis was here with the producers developing this project.”

He paid tribute to his co-star: “James McAvoy really made my work shine because his work was so strong and powerful and open”.

He thanked “god” as well as “my grandmother who went to the realm of my ancestors a couple of days ago”.

Craig smiled despite his name not being read out for best actor.

Dame Helen shed tears when she picked up her award, saying: “This is great.

“What an honour, especially to be nominated – just to be nominated -amongst those incredible powerhouse performances this year from women.

“I applaud them. I think they were absolutely fantastic. Write more roles for us like that please. Thank you Peter (Morgan), keep writing.”

She paid tribute to her co-star, saying: “Michael (Sheen) was fantastic as Blair”, and also thanked “the rest of my wonderful ’royal family’. A group of people, without whom I would have never been queen.

“I refer of course to the corgis. Thank you dogs and bitches,” she said.

Dame Helen also paid tribute to Penny Dyer as voice coach for making her “less Barbara Windsor and more Elizabeth Windsor, I hope” and costume designer Consolata Boyle for “giving me the best padded knickers I have ever worn”.

Breaking down in tears, she added: “Many years ago when I started off as an actress I had the immense good fortune to work with an actor that was so generous at sharing his craft.

“He became a mentor to me, he helped me believe in myself. Ian Richardson, I’m not too sure I would be here today if it wasn’t for you.”

Director Stephen Frears said when The Queen won best film: “Blimey, thank you very much.”

Best actress Dame Helen Mirren and best actor Forest Whitaker greeted each other backstage with a hug.

“Don’t we make a good king and queen?” joked Dame Helen.

She likened her awards season to a greyhound making it past the finishing post.

“It’s not about winning,” she said, when asked if she was feeling confident of an Oscars victory.

“I feel sometimes like a dog at White City – ’she’s coming in at 25-1, the bitch is coming in, she’s going to win, she’s gone and won it!’

“It just happens that I had a year of very challenging work and three good roles – The Queen, Elizabeth I and Prime Suspect. I worked my butt off for a year, and now I’m getting the reaction to those three pieces of work.”

Dame Helen spoke more about her affection for House of Cards star and acclaimed Shakespearean actor Ian Richardson, who died on Friday.

“I worked with him in my first role at Stratford. He was a big important lead actor and I was nothing. He was so generous and kind to me personally, so I was very sad to hear of his death a couple of days ago, and I wanted to dedicate this award to him.

“Without Ian, maybe I wouldn’t be here.”

She also paid tribute to fellow Dame, Judi Dench.

The two women have been cast in a “battle of the Dames” for the Baftas and the Oscars, but Dame Helen said: “It’s irrelevant that we have both got these gongs from whoever it is that gives them out.

“We have both been very hard-working actresses and I have certainly followed Dame Judi all of my life and taken my inspiration from her in terms of the kind of work she has chosen and her dedication to theatre. She showed that you don’t become a great actress without doing the work.”

The star was reported to have received an invitation to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

But she said: “I don’t know anything about that. I haven’t had a personal invitation. But that would be pretty amazing.”

Also speaking backstage, Whitaker said: “This award is really special to me. The movie has been very important to my career and everyone who created it was from Britain, so I’m so happy that it won outstanding British film. It’s an amazing night for the film.”

The Last King of Scotland’s scriptwriter Peter Morgan – who also wrote The Queen – said he was “absolutely thrilled” to see it win the outstanding British film of the year award.

“So far we’ve had Forest Whitaker travelling around collecting awards, but it’s fantastic that the film is now being recognised in more categories. We are beyond proud,” he said.

Director Kevin Macdonald admitted he was initially sceptical about casting Whitaker as the brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.

“He seemed such a sweet, gentle, lovely kind of person, but he came in and auditioned and was so keen to do it. And he persuaded me that he did have the depths of anger, paranoia and terror in him that were required for the part,” he said.

The film will have its African premiere next Saturday in Kampala.

Macdonald said: “Probably the single most important decision we made was to go to Uganda and make the film there. The people of Uganda were fantastic. We are going to take these awards with us back to Africa,” he said.

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