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Sunday, 24 February, 2002, 23:32 GMT
The wet carpet treatment
Stephen Fry, Harvey Keitel
Stephen Fry, here with Harvey Keitel, was a happy host
By BBC News Online's Alex Webb

The Baftas' move to February last year was widely seen as a master stroke, placing the event smack in the middle of the awards season, between the Golden Globes and the Oscars.

But February in London brings its own problems, and on Sunday evening the film industry's great and good had to negotiate a red carpet that became so wet with rain it started foaming with detergent from its last clean.

The offending substance turned out to be a flame retardant chemical, which was used in the manufacturing process, reacting with the rain.

Still, an intrepid crowd braved the persistent downpour and stood in London's Leicester Square waiting for the big names to arrive.

The truth is we're all working in an international industry

Sir Ian McKellen
And arrive they did - not just the UK industry's stalwarts, but international names like Nicole Kidman, Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman, Baz Luhrmann, Halle Berry and Renée Zellweger.

A few stopped to chat with the banks of huddled, rain-soaked journalists.

Dominic Monaghan predicted "at least five" awards for Lord Of The Rings, in which he plays Meriadoc Brandybuck - accurately, as it turned out.

Sissy Spacek said she was "thrilled to death" to be in London but added that before she left the US she had checked with the internet: "I knew it was going to rain."

Anna Friel
Anna Friel wore a vintage dress
Sir Ian McKellen was philosophical: "What else do you expect in London in February? - it's fine. I've known it to rain in LA too."

And Jim Broadbent said he was "slightly wet, but very excited".

Anna Friel wore a vintage red dress she had bought in Toronto, while Saffron Burrows was in red Armani.


And for a moment it looked like red might be the colour of the night - even Sir John Mills was wearing red socks - but as more stars came by it became clear that most had gone for black.

Predictably perhaps, the biggest screams were for Russell Crowe, almost the last big name to arrive.

Inside, though, it was a very British occasion.

Sissy Spacek
Spacek had been nominated for In The Bedroom
The very British Stephen Fry was hosting - mellifluous, loquacious and comfortable with his role as court jester to the film world's royalty.

And many visiting figures paid fulsome tribute to the UK's movie industry.

Harvey Keitel said: "Growing up in Brooklyn, I was inspired by your work and the tradition that grew out of that work, and your devotion to that tradition today."

Warren Beatty said: "I've had more fun working in England than anyone should ever have.

"I what to thank the film community for your courage, inspiration and the quality and quantity of time you've given me."


The thank yous ranged from the clichéd - Jennifer Connolly's "I really felt it was a gift to work on the movie - that itself was an honour" - to the heartfelt.

Jim Broadbent said of Baz Luhrmann: "He's a complete visionary genius without whom I'd have had a very dull two years - and the whole world would have been a dull place without his Moulin Rouge."

The neatest thank you was Russell Crowe's.

Inside the Odeon
Inside the Odeon there were tributes to the UK industry
Accepting the award for best actor in a leading role from Halle Berry, he said: "I love my job and I don't think I do it that well - but keep on disagreeing with me."

There was some good-natured sparring between Crowe and last year's best actor, Jamie Bell.

Presenting the Orange Film Of The Year to Lord Of The Rings, Bell said: "I'm not nominated this year, so Russell Crowe has a chance."

Speaking at a press conference after receiving his award, Crowe laughed about the quip and said: "I thought Jamie Bell's performance was unique and very special and I had no problems with him being honoured last year - that was really special."

Russel Crowe
Russel Crowe: "In with a chance" said Jamie Bell
It's customary now to read the runes of the Bafta winners and make predictions about the Oscars.

But the most striking lesson of Sunday's event was how truly international the industry has become.

As Sir Ian McKellen said before going into the event: "The Baftas give the British point of view and the Oscars give the American point of view, but the truth is we're all working in an international industry.

"Look at Lord Of The Rings - paid for in America, an American producer, shot in New Zealand with an international cast, and based on a British novel - it's just so international, and the Baftas recognise that."

The BBC's Rosie Millard
"It was the wettest possible evening for the awards ceremony"
Was Harry Potter snubbed by Bafta?



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