Professor Hawking and star Eddie Redmayne were both in the audience at London’s Royal Opera House as the Outstanding British award was presented by former England football star David Beckham. Redmayne was also named Leading Actor for his role as the pioneering scientist.
Accepting his award, Redmayne joked about the “incredibly unfortunate” night he had to flee a Bafta ceremony to be sick with food poisoning.
He said: “It was one of the worst nights of my life. This is one of the best.”
He thanked his own family, his “professional family” on the film, and the Hawkings “for their trust in us, their generosity and their kindness”.
The film, predicted to do well at the Oscars later this month, also won Best adapted Screenplay.
The Bafta for best film went to Boyhood, with the award being presented by Tom Cruise. The film’s director Richard Linklater was also given the best director award. Accepting Linklater’s award, actor Ethan Hawke said his friend would be “frankly pissed-off” to have missed the awards.
He thanked the child stars at the heart of the film and said: “There is no one in this room who loves cinema more than Richard Linklater.”
Julianne Moore scooped the Leading Actress award and thanked Bafta for “including me among these beautiful performances”. The Still Alice star plays a woman struck down by Alzheimer’s in the film and thanked her Scottish relatives who “poured love into me”. Patricia Arquette was named best supporting actress for her performance in Boyhood.
Another film which fared well was The Grand Budapest Hotel, which snapped up Best Original Screenplay, as well as awards for costume, hair and make-up, and production design. The award for original music went to Alexandre Desplat for his work on the film.
Desplat paid tribute to the film’s director Wes Anderson, who he said was “unique”. He said: “His world looks like nobody else’s.”
The Grand Budapest Hotel’s triumphant trawl of technical awards was halted when Whiplash won the Baftas for editing and sound. Whiplash won its second award of the evening when JK Simmons was named best supporting actor .
Picking up the award from Reese Witherspoon, he said: “This whole experience has been a gift to me.”
Elsewhere, the Bafta for best documentary went to Citizenfour about whistle-blower Edward Snowden.
Rockers Kasabian opened the glittering show, performing in front of a big screen showing highlights from some of the nominated films. They came on stage after a brief introduction from Bafta chairman Anne Morrison who thanked the audience on behalf of host Stephen Fry for “coming to his wedding reception”.