The Britannia Awards began with a sign that this wouldn’t be a staid British awards show despite the fact that the annual event is a production of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Los Angeles.
Actor Samuel L. Jackson appeared in a series of taped messages encouraging guests to take their seats so the show could start — and after two mild appeals, Jackson’s third appearance featured the actor startling many in the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton by shouting at full volume, “SIT THE F— DOWN!”
In a way, that set the tone for an entertaining night that included honoree Amy Schumer going into an extended riff on anal sex, Meryl Streep calling out the Britannias themselves, Steven Spielberg teasing a new Indiana Jones movie and emcee Jack Whitehall introducing presenter Bryan Cranston by mentioning the range he’d shown in moving from playing the dad on “Malcolm in the Middle” to the meth-dealing Walter White on “Breaking Bad.”
“Not many people can make that transition from lovable TV dad to evil drug-pushing sociopath,” he said. “Unless you’re Bill Cosby.”
In between the edgy humor, BAFTA found time to honor Schumer, Meryl Streep, Harrison Ford, James Corden, Orlando Bloom and director Sam Mendes. The show will air on Pop TV on Friday, Nov. 6 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
A few more highlights:
SHOW THEM THE MONEY
British comic Whitehall proved to be an able host, particularly at the beginning of a weekend that would bring three shows dispensing the kind of honorary awards that are often the subject of negotiation: the Britannias and the American Cinematheque tribute to Reese Witherspoon and Jeffrey Katzenberg on Friday, and the Hollywood Film Awards on Sunday.
“A lot of the other awards will use the ceremony to hop into bed with the highest bidders,” he said. “But I can tell you that here at the Jaguar Land Rover British Academy Britannia Awards Presented by American Airlines, we are classier than that.”
And yes, that is the full name of the awards.
At times it seemed as if everyone who took the stage paid homage to Meryl Streep, who sat at a front table and received the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film. “If you think Meryl’s acting’s been good up to now, wait until you see her act excited to receive a Britannia Award,” said Whitehall.
“We’ll be lucky if it ends up as the doorstop to her Golden Globe room.”
A SUFFRAGETTE FOR REAL
The Stanley Kubrick Award has in the past gone to a roster of honorees that includes Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Clint Eastwood, Warren Beatty, Daniel Day-Lewis, George Clooney and a number of other artists. Streep, whose current film is “Suffragette,” the drama about the fight for women’s rights in Great Britain, pointed out in her speech that all the previous recipients shared one distinguishing characteristic.
“I am honored to receive this award,” she said, “which has been given to this distinguished group of men… and men.”
HIS OWN BOOKING AGENT
James Corden was genuinely touched when he received the British Artist of the Year Britannia Award after a very funny introduction from Cranston. “It’s humiliating how emotional I feel,” he said, before lobbying for continued government support for the National Theatre and the BBC, two organizations he said helped give him his start.
But now that he lives in Los Angeles and hosts “The Late Late Show” on CBS, Corden also took the opportunity to work the room. “We don’t have a second guest for Thursday,” he said toward the end of his speech. “Schuuuuuumer?“
He then badgered Harrison Ford to come on his show, drawing only the faintest of grins from the veteran actor.
THE ACTION-MOVIE RULE BOOK
Years ago, “American Beauty” and “Skyfall” director Sam Mendes came up with a list of 25 rules for being a happier director. On the heels of finishing his second consecutive James Bond movie, “Spectre,” he came to the Britannias with a new list, which he said was “10 tips for young directors thinking of taking on an action film.”
Among the words to live by: “Get in touch with your inner 12-year-old,” “You can only ever point the camera at one thing at a time,” “On the day, be prepared, but also be prepared to make s— up” and “When you get excited, don’t be afraid to leap out of your chair and sing the Bond theme.”
NOT A BELIEBER
Orlando Bloom‘s presentation was the most serious of the night, because the “Lord of the Rings” actor was being honored not for his films but for his humanitarian work for UNICEF. But that didn’t stop presenter Robert Downey Jr. from beginning his remarks by referencing a public spat between Bloom and a young pop star.
When Bloom took the stage, he immediately set the record straight. “I actually did not connect with Justin Bieber,” he insisted of the widely publicized 2014 spat in Ibiza. “And I don’t know Kendall Jenner, either. But if anyone’s got her number, I’d love it.”
Then he quickly pointed out that the last comment was a joke.
THE RIBALD PIXIE, PART ONE
As everybody expected, the presentation of the Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy to Amy Schumer provided the night’s most raucous moments. And they began with presenter Seth MacFarlane‘s introduction, in which he pointed out Schumer’s penchant for talking incessantly about sex.
“Amy’s vagina is like Benghazi,” he said. “A few years ago nobody knew where it was, and now your dad’s mad about it.”
THE RIBALD PIXIE, PART TWO
After a video clip in which Jeff Goldblum perfectly summed up Schumer as “a ribald pixie,” Schumer took the stage and began to talk about how much she loved the man for which her award was named. “Charlie Chaplin — I’ll never forget the first time I saw him running around the chocolate factory.” The Charlie Chaplin/Willy Wonka bit quickly led into an extended riff on anal sex — and for the first time all night, Harrison Ford visibly stifled his laughter, burying his broad grin behind his hands while wife Calista Flockhart laughed openly.
As part of the video package that preceded the presentation of the Albert R. Broccoli Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment to Harrison Ford, a number of Ford’s colleagues and directors spoke of the actor’s talents. One was Steven Spielberg — who, toward the end of the clip, said, “I can’t wait to work with you on ‘Indiana Jones 5.”
But lest anybody jump to conclusions about that long-rumored project, Spielberg quickly set the record straight. “This is no announcement,” he said. “It’s just my fervent hope.”
A MAN OF FEW WORDS
Ford was the night’s last honoree, introduced by his “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” director J.J. Abrams with a story about how the actor paid off a $1,000 bet with two bags of 100,000 pennies. (The moral of the story, he laughed, is that sometimes the oft-praised actor “is a dick.”)
Ford, for his part, was typically laconic. “It’s a great honor,” he said, his voice little more than a whisper. “It’s also very late, and everyone has made a really good speech.”
A pause. “I didn’t prepare a speech. I could barely get dressed.”
And after a couple more sentences, a last round of applause and a return to the stage for all the honorees, the Britannias wound down.