The Aviator swooped to land the Best Picture prize at Saturday's BAFTA awards, though the Hollywood blockbuster had to share the limelight with Vera Drake, a low-budget British drama about a backstreet abortionist. But a surprise winner of the evening was Pavel Pawlikowski's teen lesbian romance My Summer of Love, which beat out such heavy hitters as Vera Drake, Shaun of the Dead, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in the Outstanding British Film of the Year category.
Leonardo DiCaprio, who played billionaire playboy and inventor Howard Hughes, flew into London with Martin Scorsese, director of The Aviator, for British cinema's big night. The critically acclaimed film landed the Best Film BAFTA, and Cate Blanchett was picked as Best Supporting Actress for her role as Katharine Hepburn. But DiCaprio failed to land the coveted Best Actor award--that went to Jamie Foxx for his portrayal of singer Ray Charles in Ray.
And the British film industry certainly had plenty to cheer. Mike Leigh was named Best Director for Vera Drake, and hot favorite Imelda Staunton landed the Best Actress award for playing the title role. The other major award--Best Supporting Actor--went to British actor Clive Owen for his thrillingly intense portrayal in Closer, which has already garnered him a Golden Globe as well as an Oscar nomination. Owen said, "This is very special because I've spent most of my career here. Closer started here, and the film was shot here, and I live here."
Blanchett was quick to pay tribute to Hepburn, the larger-than-life film star she depicted in The Aviator. "She really paved the way for women working in film today," Blanchett said. After his surprise defeat of the legendary Scorsese to be named Best Director, Mike Leigh said, "Given the other names, it's a real surprise and an extraordinary honor." Staunton, who fought off hotly fancied compatriot Kate Winslet to land the award, was quick to hail Leigh for helping to conjure up the greatest portrayal of her career: "He is a genius. I had the best time making this film." Foxx was unable to make the London award ceremony, but in an acceptance speech read for him, he said, "I'm honored and proud to receive this BAFTA. I'd like to thank the late Ray Charles himself."
The BAFTAs were moved in 2001 from April to February to fall between the Golden Globes and the Oscars and seek to steal some Hollywood limelight as the cinema awards season reaches its climax. But with a penchant for offbeat and quirky small-budget movies, the BAFTAs have not always been the most accurate guide to Oscar glory for the big winners.