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Nine Things I Learned at BAFTA's Brittania Awards

by Anne Thompson
November 6, 2009 7:52 AM
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BAFTA LA's Britannia Awards at the Hyatt Regency were a blast Thursday night, as the Brits handed out achievement awards to Kirk Douglas, Colin Firth, Emily Blunt, Danny Boyle and Robert De Niro. The show was far better than last year, which went on "at ass-paralyzing length," as host Stephen Fry put it.

Ben Stiller Makes Robert De Niro Laugh
Stone-faced throughout the night, De Niro cracked up (along with the rest of the room) as Stiller tweaked him, saying that he was "voted the least likely to twitter," and admitted that during the Little Fockers sequel, he had given him a shot of adrenaline in his penis. "I've seen him fall asleep during a take," he said. "He was jet-lagged from opening Nobu Antarctica. Even when he sleeps he's more interesting than most others."

For his part, De Niro described himself as the "quintessential British actor," reserved and witty. He imagined doing Taxi Driver as a Brit. "I say, are you speaking to me?" In a more sober moment he said, "I want to thank what's left of Miramax for their faith in Everybody's Fine. I got a message to call back after the holidays."

[More photos on the jump]

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Ewan McGregor and Danny Boyle are Friends Again
McGregor and Boyle launched their film careers together with Shallow Grave and Trainspotting. Then after A Life Less Ordinary in 1997 they stopped working together. Now they're buds again, as McGregor gave a heartfelt speech to Boyle, who hugged him when he got onstage to accept the John Schlesinger directing award. I'd love to see them collaborate again. "He set the bar very high," said McGregor. "I felt very creatively satisfied. He pushes you to find more depth and truth. I felt safe in his hands. I'm in awe of your bravery. Making a movie about junkies in Edinborough was not an easy choice...I love you and miss you."

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Danny Boyle's Next Movie Isn't Written Yet.
This week's announcement of Boyle's next project, 127 Hours, based on the 2003 story of mountaineer Aron Ralston, was premature, Boyle said. He's been writing the script himself, although Simon Beaufoy is coming in to help him now. For four years, Boyle has been wanting to make a movie of Ralston's ordeal trapped in a Utah canyon for five days with his arm caught under a boulder. He saved himself by cutting the limb off with a knife, then climbed a 65-foot sheer wall, hiked out and was rescued.

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The dramatic hook is that Boyle intends to film the first part of the movie with no dialogue. The guy is alone in a canyon. Period. No soccer ball tricks like Tom Hanks in Castaway. "The script has no green light or budget," Boyle says. Casting the 27-year-old American athlete is key. Who could do it? Ryan Gosling, Shia LaBeouf, Emile Hirsch, James Franco and Chris Pine come to mind. Any other ideas?

Slumdog Millionaire Stars Dev Patel and Freida Pinto Are An Item
This I did not know!

Ten People Passed on Colin Firth's Role in A Single Man
Director Tom Ford really wanted Firth to play the role of a grieving gay man who has lost his lover of 16 years, but he was never available. Until the last minute. One reason to do these award shows during Oscar season is to raise awareness of the movie you are currently flogging. For his work with Oxfam and Eco Age, among other charities, Firth accepted the Britannia Humanitarian award from Ford and Minnie Driver, who called him "a ranter." The self-effacing Firth said he was just a "a communication device."

Arnold Schwarzenegger Hearts Kirk Douglas
The governator showed up to present the Worldwide Contribution to Filmed Entertainment award to Douglas (87 films, 10 plays, 9 books), admitting that when they filmed The Villain together, Douglas made him do dumbbell curls with him, doing 10 sets of 20 reps. "He was flexing his biceps, so proud of it," said Schwarzenegger. "He taught me to 'follow through.'" Douglas played the room like the sharpie that he is, singing "Maybe It's Because I'm a Londoner."

Don't Ask Reluctant Stars to Present Awards
Benicio del Toro is the kind of movie star who bumbles his way laboriously through the teleprompter, and doesn't do the extra labor to sell it to the room. Why bother if it isn't genuine? It smacks of Universal Pictures asking their Wolfman to do the favor for his co-star, Young Victoria star Emily Blunt, accepting the British Artist of the Year Award. Amy Adams, her Sunshine Cleaning cohort, was much more convincing.

Saorise Ronan and Stanley Tucci Carry The Lovely Bones
Word is that Saorise Ronan and Stanley Tucci are both strong in Peter Jackson's thriller The Lovely Bones, a movie I am keen to see.

Stephen Fry Is Best Emcee
A tall drink of British wry, Fry makes a witty host. At the pre-dinner cocktail party the actor-director blamed his moodiness for threatening to stop tweeting. I love his twitter feed; he gets it. But he wants tweeting to be fun, not a chore, and one negative comment can ruin everything, like someone "adding a drop of urine to a glass of water," he said. "I don't look at my mentions anymore." I had heard that Fry was reluctant to host the BAFTA Awards (Jonathan Ross usually does the honors), but he likes doing the Britannia Awards better than the other one, he said, or he wouldn't do them. My fave bit: American phrases that sound Yiddish: "boyish appeal," "title," "far-fetched," "BAFTA-LA."

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