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Last Updated: Monday, 16 February, 2004, 00:57 GMT
Glamour on Bafta's red carpet
By Chris Heard
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Thousands of UK film fans gave some of Hollywood's finest a raucous welcome at the 2004 Bafta awards in London - and BBC News Online was there to see it all.

Emma Thompson
Emma Thompson admitted to feeling the cold
Cheering crowds thronged Leicester Square to join the celebrations for the British entertainment world's biggest night of the year.

It made for a rousing atmosphere as some of the cream of the world's actors and film-makers got briefly close to their adoring public.

Providing the red carpet glitz were a wealth of movie talent: among them Johnny Depp, Holly Hunter, Jude Law, Scarlett Johansson, Benicio Del Toro, Emma Thompson and Naomi Watts.

They were joined by a string of leading directors competing for the night's prizes including Peter Jackson, Anthony Minghella, Tim Burton and Sofia Coppola.

All were greeted warmly - but by far the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp.

Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro
Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro thrilled the crowds
Depp, nominated for best actor, emerged from his limo as a conspicuous last-minute arrival - defying speculation that he might not show up.

Asked about the crowd's overwhelming reaction, he jokingly told BBC News Online: "I paid everyone, I paid everyone."

Emma Thompson, in a show-stealing Maria Grachvogel dress with fake fur stole, admitted to feeling the chill of the cold February night.

"I'm freezing, darling" said Thompson, competing for best supporting actress for Love Actually.

"I've been outside for an hour in a frock that essentially is a front and no back and will turn into a sausage skin at about midnight."

Her fellow Love Actually star Bill Nighy, nominated for best supporting actor, said he was amazed by the reception.

Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson was among prize-winners on the red carpet
"It's wild. I had no idea it was quite so big," he said.

"I thought the premiere for Love Actually was big. It's a very big deal and I think it's getting bigger and bigger. Anything that celebrates British film, we need it. We have always had acres of talent - it must be in the DNA."

Peter Jackson, director of the evening's big winner The Return of the King, was also thrilled by the audience's appreciation.

"We've had our premieres here for the last three years and the Leicester Square crowd give you a hell of a reception, that's for sure," he said.

"It's very important to us that Mr Tolkien (Lord of the Rings author) was born here and we have tried to adapt his story with the integrity that he put into it himself."

Rings star Sir Ian McKellen said Leicester Square had been transformed into "a street party".

"It's about drawing attention to the film industry and the British film industry," he said. "It's a party. It's end of term. It's people patting each other on the back. There should be more of this going on."

Thandie Newton
Actress Thandie Newton wore a Roland Mouret dress
One visitor apparently less comfortable with all the noise was 21 Grams star Naomi Watts, who admitted she was not used to so many people calling her name.

"It's scary!" she said. "I don't think it's a natural experience. You get a little bit more used to it with time but I'm still pretty new at this!"

Mystic River star Laura Linney - nominated as best supporting actress - seemed more relaxed.

"I'm very proud to be here, it's very nice," she said. "It's different (to the US) in a really nice way. I love it here. I'm certainly not expecting anything - I'm rooting for Emma (Thompson), but I'm just thrilled to be here."

Sofia Coppola, whose film Lost in Translation won best actor and actress awards for Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, said she was excited to be at her first Baftas but had no expectations: "I'm happy to be here."

Cold Mountain director Anthony Minghella, whose film had led the shortlists with 13 nominations, said making the movie had been a reward in itself.

"I'm thrilled that we got so many nominations. I feel like they are 13 arrows pointing at the movie and to audiences to say it was worth getting the movie out."

Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson was warmly received by Lord of the Rings fans
Peter Webber, director of Girl with a Pearl Earring, was in a similar frame of mind: "To a first time film-maker (the Baftas) means a lot. You get the chance to make another film - that's the prize I've had already."

While some observers remarked that this year's guest list did not live up to last year's stellar turnout (Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore), there was still plenty of star quality in evidence in central London.

Despite the absence of big-name nominees such as Uma Thurman, Sean Penn and Bill Murray, fashion-watchers were at least reassured by the high designer count.

Joely Richardson in Dior, a Prada-clad Scarlett Johansson and Jerry Hall wearing Vivienne Westwood were deemed to be among the evening's shrewder couture choices.


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