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Fame and celebrity

‘Three Billboards’ takes best film, actress and other prizes at #MeToo-influenced BAFTA awards

The revenge comedy-drama won best British film and best overall picture; its stars Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell won best actress and best supporting actor, respectively

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 February, 2018, 3:54am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 February, 2018, 4:53pm

Revenge comedy-drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri swept up top prizes at the  British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards in London, Britain, on Sunday evening.

Among the haul was a best actress award for star Frances McDormand, whose portrayal of a determined mother fighting injustice and sexual violence chimed with the gala’s audience, among whom there was strong support for the #MeToo and “Time’s Up” movements.

Female stars, clad in black dresses, brought feminist activists and anti-violence campaigners as guests to the ceremony, while men showed solidarity with “Time’s Up” lapel pins as tremors from abuse revelations continue to rumble through the industry.

“This is a moment in history,” Jane Lush, chairwoman of the British film academy, said as she opened the ceremony. “It should be a watershed, a catalyst for lasting change.”

I want you to know that I stand in full solidarity with my sisters tonight in black
Frances McDormand on not wearing black like protesting actresses at the awards

McDormand broke from the #MeToo crowd by foregoing the all-black dresses worn to protest sexual harassment and violence. Instead, she opted to wear black and red.

“I have a little trouble with compliance,” she said. “But I want you to know that I stand in full solidarity with my sisters tonight in black.”

Three Billboards, which was written and directed by Briton Martin McDonagh, took both the first and last prizes of the evening, for outstanding British film and best overall picture, respectively.

McDormand’s co-star, Sam Rockwell, won best supporting actor for his role as a violent, damaged sheriff’s deputy.

The best actor award was taken by Gary Oldman for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.

Oldman said the prize is “all the more special because I can share it with my family,” including his three sons in the London audience.

He thanked the makeup team that rendered him unrecognizable in the biopic, and Churchill himself, who he said helped maintain Britain’s honor and freedom “in those dark uncertain days” at the start of the second world war.

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The win cements Oldman’s place as the favorite to win the best-actor Academy Award at the Hollywood ceremony on March 4.

Meanwhile, Allison Janney took home the award for best supporting actress for her role in I, Tonya, while Guillermo del Toro won best director for off-kilter fantasy romance The Shape of Water which also bagged trophies for music and production design.

While receiving the best British film award for Three Billboards alongside McDonagh, producer Graham Broadbent said the US-set movie about a bereaved mother seeking justice is “the story of a woman taking on the establishment and status quo.”

“It seems more timely now than we could ever have imagined,” he said.

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It was a thought that McDonagh also echoed when he said that “our film is a hopeful one in lots of ways, but it’s also an angry one.

“As we’ve seen this year, sometimes anger is the only way to get people to listen and to change.”

Allegations of sexual harassment and abuse have been levelled at scores of entertainment figures since women began coming forward to accuse Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein last year.

The issue has crossed the Atlantic, where London’s Old Vic Theatre has been rocked by allegations against former artistic director Kevin Spacey. London police are also investigating nine claims of sexual assault by Weinstein.

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Three BillboardsThe Shape of Water and the World War II flag-waver Darkest Hour were the front-runners for the British prizes, considered a key indicator of likely success at Hollywood’s Oscars in two weeks’ time.

On the red carpet, Kristin Scott Thomas, a supporting actress nominee for Darkest Hour, praised the conversation about misconduct that has started in the entertainment industry, but said a tougher task will be “moving it from conversation to action.”

Actress Andrea Riseborough, who brought UK Black Pride founder Phyll Opoku-Gyimah as her guest, said she also hoped the film industry was on the road to greater diversity.

“It’s more likely we’ll see an alien on-screen than we’ll see an Asian woman at the moment, which is disgraceful,” she said.

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Prince William – president of the UK movie academy – and the Duchess of Cambridge were guests of honour at Sunday’s ceremony, hosted by Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley. 

Notably, Kate Middleton did not wear black, but did show off a muted palette by wearing a dark green Jenny Packham dress with black belt.

The call to wear black put Kate in a delicate position, because the royal family is careful to avoid political statements.

Ahead of the ceremony, almost 200 British female entertainment stars called for an international movement to end sexual misconduct.

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Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson, Naomie Harris, Emma Watson and Gemma Arterton were among signatories to a letter saying that 2018 should be “the year that time was up on sexual harassment and abuse.”

In a letter published in The Observer newspaper, 190 female stars called for an end to impunity for abusers and said “this movement is bigger than just a change in our industry alone.”

They announced a fund to support women and men battling workplace abuse, modelled on the “Time’s Up” movement in the US.

Former Harry Potter star Watson has given the fund £1 million pounds (US$1.4 million), according to its page on the Go Fund Me website. Keira Knightley and Tom Hiddleston are each listed as having given £10,000 (US$14,000).

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Nominees for best film are The Shape of WaterDarkest HourThree Billboards, sun-drenched romance Call Me By Your Name and World War II drama Dunkirk.

Gary Oldman is the favourite to take the best-actor trophy for his Golden Globe-winning portrayal of British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.

He’s up against fellow Britons Daniel Day-Lewis for Phantom Thread, Daniel Kaluuya for Get Out and Jamie Bell for Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool, as well as American actor Timothee Chalamet for Call Me By Your Name.

The best-actress race is an international contest, pitting American Frances McDormand as a bereaved mother in Three Billboards against Britain’s Sally Hawkins for The Shape Of Water, Irish actress Saoirse Ronan for Lady Bird, US star Annette Bening for Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool and Australia’s Margot Robbie for I, Tonya.

Ridley Scott, whose films include Blade RunnerAlienThelma and Louise and Gladiator, is set to receive the academy’s highest honour, the BAFTA Fellowship.