Baftas 2019: The Favourite reigns – almost – supreme as Roma takes best picture
Olivia Colman’s win for best actress is among seven gongs for the period romp, but Alfonso Cuarón is set fair for Oscars glory as Roma takes best picture, best director, and two more
Mark Brown Arts correspondent
Sun 10 Feb 2019 21.32 GMT Last modified on Mon 11 Feb 2019 04.42 GMT
Olivia Colman’s performance as the unstable, self-pitying and hilariously bad-mannered Queen Anne won her Bafta award success on Sunday evening – one of seven awards for the 18th-century comedy The Favourite.
The film was easily the biggest winner at the glitzy Royal Albert Hall ceremony, picking up prizes including including best British film, best production design, best supporting actress, best original screenplay and best costume design.
Colman followed up her success at the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice awards by being named best actress – a category pundits predicted would feature a close race between her and Glenn Close, nominated for The Wife.
“We are having an amazing night aren’t we?” said Colman in her speech, which met with a standing ovation. “We are going to get so pissed later.”
It caps a stratospheric rise for the actor who early in her career struggled for parts and was best known for comedy, becoming a regular in Mitchell and Webb television and radio sketches and Peep Show. Later came career-changing dramas such as Broadchurch and The Night Manager – up next: the middle-aged Elizabeth in Netflix’s The Crown.
Playing a queen of England does not guarantee Bafta success, but it unquestionably helps. Colman follows in the footsteps of Katharine Hepburn (Eleanor of Aquitaine), Judi Dench (Elizabeth I and Victoria), Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth I) and Helen Mirren (Elizabeth II) in winning for a royal turn.
Both her co-stars, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, were nominated for best supporting actress, with Weisz winning out. Weisz paid tribute to her co-stars, saying: “I salute you! Didn’t we have an extraordinary time. Hats off, ladies.”
It was a terrific night for The Favourite but it lost out to the widely lauded tear-jerker Roma in the best film category. Roma’s director Alfonso Cuarón was named best director, beating Yorgos Lanthimos, Spike Lee, Bradley Cooper and Paweł Pawlikowski. It also won best cinematography (by Cuarón himself) and best film not in the English language.
Cuarón thanked Netflix for having the “faith and courage to get behind a black-and-white film about a domestic worker, subtitled from Spanish, and bring it to audiences around the world.
“To see a film about an indigenous domestic worker embraced this way in an age when fear and anger propose to divide us means the world to me.
“Reverting back to a world of separation and isolation is not a solution to anything. It is simply an excuse to hide our fear within our basest instincts.”
If there was an underlying theme of the evening – apart from the odd jibe about Brexit – then it was diversity in the industry. Or the lack of such.
One of the biggest cheers went to The Favourite’s production designers Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton when they dedicated their win to “every woman and working mother who keeps it together and makes it happen”. And screenwriter Deborah Davis said: “Thank you for celebrating our female-dominated movie about women in power.”
The Favourite’s costume designer, Sandy Powell, described it as a dream “to design for three powerful female protagonists played by three powerful female actresses”.
Earlier in the evening, the film-maker Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, accepting the best documentary award for Free Solo, which follows rock climber Alex Honnold on a remarkable, heart-stopping free solo climb, thanked National Geographic for “hiring women and people of colour … because we do make the films better”.
Bohemian Rhapsody won two awards, including best actor for Rami Malek’s remarkable portrayal of Freddie Mercury. “This is totally extraordinary,” he said. “Thank you for this generous gift.”
The film’s success is striking on several levels, considering some fans were unhappy at what they perceived as liberties taken by the plot, as well as the mixed reception it got from critics, and the unceremonious firing of director Bryan Singer before the film was finished. Last week, Singer’s name was removed from the nominations list because of sexual misconduct allegations against him. Malek did not mention Singer in his speech.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? star Richard E Grant continued to enjoy his award-season party, grinning constantly and posing for photographs, but he failed to win best supporting actor, losing to Mahershala Ali for Green Book.
It was a brilliant night for The Favourite, but the Bafta record of nine awards – set in 1971 by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – remains intact.
Other awards included best original music for A Star Is Born, and outstanding British debut for the film-makers of Beast.
This year’s awards were the first to take place since Bafta introduced new rules to increase diversity in the films it honours. But although change is happening, it is too slow for many observers, who point to the all-male shortlist for the best director category. The only woman to ever win is Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker in 2009.
Bafta contends that the lack of women director nominations is a reflection of wider problems in the industry. On the red carpet, Dame Pippa Harris, Bafta’s chair, said only 10% of the films entered this year were directed by women. “It needs to be 50%.” She acknowledged there is “still much more to be done” and praised the “4% challenge”, which encourages people in the film industry to commit to working with a female director within the next 18 months. “It seems so low as a bar you think, ‘Really? Is that all we are aiming for?’ But I think it’s great to have something concrete that people can pledge to do.”
For the second year running, Joanna Lumley presented the awards – probably down to her not being on Twitter, she joked. In truth that was one of her better lines, as many of her scripted gags were met with groans or, worse, polite chuckles.
The ceremony’s in memorium section paid tribute to figures such as Albert Finney and Nicolas Roeg, accompanied by the young saxophonist Jess Gillam playing the title track from Love Story.
The only award voted for by the public, the rising star award, went to Letitia Wright, the Guyanese-born British star of Black Panther, who revealed from the stage that she was deeply depressed a few years ago and was considering giving up acting. Her faith in God and Bafta got her back on track, she said.
The evening’s highest honour, the Bafta fellowship, was given to film editor Thelma Schoonmaker, a three-time Oscar winner and one of Martin Scorsese’s closest collaborators, who has worked on 22 of his features.
Ahead of the award, Schoonmaker revealed to the Observer her plans to publish the diaries of her late husband, the director Michael Powell.
Another of Bafta’s special awards, for outstanding British contribution to cinema, was presented by Bill Nighy to husband-and-wife producers Stephen Woolley and Elizabeth Karlsen, whose films over four decades, from The Crying Game to Carol, have been nominated for a total of 52 Baftas.