Jane Fonda was the talk of Friday night’s British Academy Britannia Awards – and she didn’t even have to show up to steal the spotlight.
Receiving the prestigious Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award For Excellence In Film, Fonda pulled off what is easily the most unusual acceptance speech ever given in the annals of Hollywood awards shows. Although she had originally been scheduled to accept in person, I am told the organization learned a couple of weeks ago that she couldn’t attend because, as is her custom now every Friday, she planned to be in Washington D.C. demanding urgent action to battle climate change and calling for a Green New Deal and no new drilling for fossil fuels. Along with others, including actor Ted Danson, she was arrested, in her case, for the third Friday in a row, on the Southeast lawn of the US Capitol building.
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Presenter Taron Egerton cued the 81 year star’s pre-taped acceptance speech. “I am receiving the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award For Excellence In Film. I am so honored , I can’t even believe it. I am so grateful. It’s thrilling. I am sorry I’m not there, but as you may have heard I have been getting arrested,” she said, explaining for fight over climate change and why she has moved to D.C. for a while. “I have been trying to heighten the sense of urgency. This is a crisis, not just here, but all over the world.”
At that point the crowd went crazy when footage of Fonda being put in handcuffs and carted off to jail was shown, as she shouted, “THANK YOU, BAFTA. BAFTA, THANK YOU! THANK YOU FOR THE STANLEY KUBRICK BRITANNIA AWARD!” To say the packed audience at the Beverly Hilton International Ballroom of mostly Brits went bananas and on their feet cheering wildly is an understatement. That Fonda was able to do this while bringing attention to her cause was remarkable in terms of this type of event. “Now, that’s a star,” someone near me exclaimed afterwards, pointing to the power of being able to hijack a show. This was one for the ages.
In addition to Fonda, the other honorees were Norman Lear for the Britannia Award for Excellence in Television; Phoebe Waller-Bridge for British Artist Of The Year; Jordan Peele, the John Schlesinger Britannia Award for Excellence In Directing ; Steve Coogan, the Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence In Comedy; and Jackie Chan, the Albert R. Broccoli Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment. Comedian James Vietch hosted, and was quite funny, delivering zingers like “Norman Lear is so old his father’s name was King,” the perfect Shakespearean joke for this particular audience.
Presenter John C. Reilly called his Stan & Ollie co-star Coogan, “The greatest artist in the comedy field, in my opinion, a true friend and brother.” In his speech, Coogan noted he was “standing on the shoulders of giants,” and said the secret of his success was finding clever people and working with them. He also quoted Ben Stiller’s one-time “praise” of him, saying his strong point is his “availability”.
Kerry Washington, who played Helen Willis in this year’s Emmy-winning ABC Live Special recreating The Jeffersons, presented Lear his award. The 97-year-old icon remembered his partner, Bud Yorkin, and how he called from London suggesting American remakes of the British TV comedies, Till Death Us Do Part and Steptoe And Son. They, of course, went on to enormous success as All In The Family and Sanford And Son. Thus, the very British link to Lear’s honor last night. “I am so grateful for every moment of this year,” Lear said, in reference to his Britannia Award, as well as his recent Emmy, making him the oldest winner ever.
He drew a massive standing ovation, but when Peele was given his award later, it was Lear who could be seen across the room being the first to jump to his feet. Lear was an early fan of Get Out, and even conducted a Q&A with Peele for the Producers Guild. Peele’s Us star , Lupita Nyong’o, presented to him. Peele slyly noted he was getting the directing award named after the great John Schlesinger, but only after just two films on his resume. “Someone clearly is not putting a lot of thought into this. There are many more directors with prestigious films. I could still F**k this up. What if John Schlesinger hated my next film? I still got the Schless!” he cracked.
Donald Glover, who appeared in the movie Solo with her, presented Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the recent three-time Emmy winner, with her British Artist Of The Year Britannia. After receiving a standing ovation, she cracked, “What an amazing person I am!” She also thanked Amazon, the streamer behind Fleabag, “for letting me make it, not remaking it,” as usually happens in the business. She called this the most extraordinary year of her life.
Vin Diesel gave a rambling intro to Chan, who closed the show with his acceptance by saying in fairly coherent English, “I don’t have a great speech like Steve (Coogan). Everything you said, I don’t understand. Sorry,” he laughed. “I am very shocked. I kept practicing ‘BAFTA’ ‘Baffffffta’,” he said, while mentioning how important this is to him in a career where he has made action films for 59 years.
Quite a night, one which began with a welcome from outgoing CEO Chantal Rickards who is leaving her post to return to London. This was a great way to go out, and especially because of Jane Fonda, one we won’t soon forget.
To watch the video of Fonda’s segment just click on the link at the top of the post.
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