The Britannia Awards, which took place on Friday night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, were supposed to be a collegial event at which the BAFTA Los Angeles gave its annual honorary awards to a group for actors and filmmakers. But Jim Carrey, who received the Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy, had more on his mind than simply accepting congratulations.
In a fiery speech, Carrey invoked Colin Kaepernick and Christine Blasey Ford, yelled “How dare they!” at their right-wing critics and decried “capitalism without conscience.”
“I know this wasn’t funny but it’s not very funny right now,” he said at the end of his comments. “And I want it to be and I will be again.”
The speech brought a jolt of energy to what had been a relatively lighthearted and mostly non-political evening, which had already seen honors go to actors Emilia Clarke, Cate Blanchett and Damien Lewis and director Steve McQueen. Marvel chief Kevin Feige was also honored.
But Carrey, who in recent months has been known for the highly political artwork he posts on Twitter, quickly changed the mood when he took the stage. “I’m glad it didn’t come in the mail,” he said, hoisting the Britannia Award when it was given to him by director Peter Farrelly.
“I no longer have packages delivered to my home in the great America that’s been fashioned in the last couple of years,” he said, before talking about how the distinctive walk of Charlie Chaplin’s signature character, the Little Tramp, came about because the character had holes in his shoes and was actually trying to hobble without pain.
“Without empathy like that, the character would never have existed,” he said. “And without empathy, we won’t either.”
He talked about how in films like “Modern Times,” Chaplin fought “capitalism without conscience,” and said “he took on the American right wing of his day on its worst evils: hatred of the immigrant, abuse of power … We are fighting these same evils today.”
His voice rising, Carrey went on. “Shamelessness is not and will never be a superpower! Kidnapping children is not what great nations do! Almost half of America at this moment believes there is a sinister deep-state diabolically plotting to — what, give them health care?”
He then dedicated the award “to Charlie Chaplin, who battled McCarthyism into exile! To Christopher Steele, who tried to pull a thorn out of the paw of an ungrateful beast! To Christine Blasey Ford! To Colin Kapernick — he’ll stand for the anthem when the anthem stands for him! And to … my good friend and one of the greatest artists of our time, my good friend Robert De Niro, whose life was threatened this week along with many other incredibly decent people who bring joy to the world!
“How dare they besmirch these people! How dare they!”
The speech galvanized the room and drew a partial standing ovation from a crowd that included noted Trump backer Piers Morgan, who earlier had drawn a smattering of applause and boos when host Jack Whitehall pointed out that he was there.
While Whitehall tossed in a few political barbs in his opening comments, his jokes were mostly about show business and about Brits in the U.S., apropros for a crowd heavy on members of the Los Angeles contingent of BAFTA, the British Academy of Film and Television Artists. While the British Academy Film Awards, given out in February in London, is BAFTA’s biggest prize, the Britannia Awards are a noncompetitive L.A. version, bestowing half a dozen honorary awards each year.
“Game of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke was named British Artist of the Year in a presentation in which “GoT” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss revealed that she won over the HBO brass at the end of her audition by dancing The Robot. Cate Blanchett won the Stanley Kubrick Britannnia Award for Excellence in Film and described herself as “a disaster” because she’s “so f—ing low-fi” that she reads her thank-yous from notecards — but her glasses were so dirty that she had trouble reading them.
Viola Davis presented the John Schlesinger Britannia Award for Excellence in Directing to her “Widows” director Steve McQueen in a presentation that found both presenter and honoree in a serious mood. “Billions” star Damien Lewis lightened the mood considerably with tales of his “slow start” in acting, and with a nifty Michael Caine impersonation.
It fell to Feige to conclude the show by accepting the Albert R. Broccoli Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment — and while Marvel’s mastermind was hardly an undeserving honoree, he did manage to sum up the feeling in the room with his opening remarks.
“Whose idea was it for me to go on after Jim Carrey?” he said. “I’m pretty sure the show ended.”