Caine: It's taken 85 films to stop being an outsider

British Academy honours the veteran actor and the late director Stanley Kubrick, but Mendes misses out on director's prize
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The Independent Culture

In an emotional and hardhitting speech, Michael Caine said at the Bafta Awards last night that he had always felt an outsider in his own country.

The actor, who was honoured with Fellowship of the British Academy for his lifetime achievement, said: "I have never felt I belonged in my own country, in my own profession. I've been a loner. I became an actor in a youth club. I came from a section in this country who never knew there was such a thing as a drama school. I had an awkward voice.

"All the way through I have sort of felt on the outside as if I was trying to make something of myself ... it has been cold out there. Maybe I feel a little more welcome in my own country than I have been up to now." He noted that he had received only one Bafta in 85 films.

The year of American Beauty continued at the ceremony at the Odeon in Leicester Square, central London, when the film's five Oscar triumphs were trumped by six Baftas including the award for best film.

The British Academy - determined perhaps to show itself independent from the Oscars - overlooked both American Beauty's director, Sam Mendes, and The Talented Mr Ripley's Anthony Minghella in favour of Pedro Almodovar from Spain, who won the award for best direction for All About My Mother. But there were embarrassingly few laughs for the host, the comic Jack Docherty, who remarked of Almodovar: "Now he is going off to celebrate as the Spanish do by chucking a donkey from a bell tower."

Mendes had at least won best director at the Oscars, but Minghella leaves both ceremonies empty-handed. Jude Law, though, won best supporting actor for his role in The Talented Mr Ripley while Maggie Smith won best supporting actress for Tea with Mussolini.

But the two big acting prizes went to the stars of American Beauty Kevin Spacey, who repeated his Oscar triumph, and Annette Bening. Receiving his award, Spacey said: "I am forever grateful to Sam Mendes for casting me in this role. It's the most incredible part I've ever been given. When I step before a camera I am grateful for every single moment of my stupid little life."

There was recognition in the awards for a number of British films. East is East was voted outstanding British film of the year. The End of the Affair won best adapted screen-play for the Irish director Neil Jordan. Lynne Ramsay, director of Ratcatcher, was voted best newcomer in a British film. Mike Leigh's Topsy-Turvy won best make-up/hair.

The film producer Stephen Woolley, chairman of the Bafta film committee, said of Caine's award: "The awarding of the Fellowship ... in my opinion is as belated as it is deserving. People associate Mr Caine's work as an actor as an essential ingredient in the cultural fabric of post-war Britain. His excellence over 45 years of continuous movie performances has gained him iconic stature in British cinema, as synonymous to our industry as Hovis is to bread and the Beatles are to music."

There were two other special awards. The first was a posthumous award for the director Stanley Kubrick for outstanding contribution to film. The award was presented by Sydney Pollack, a life-long friend, who was in Kubrick's last film, Eyes Wide Shut. Joyce Herlihy, the production manager on Chariots of Fire and The Russia House, won the Michael Balcon award for outstanding British contribution to cinema.

The audience award for most popular film went to Notting Hill with 13,779 votes from members of the public.The Matrix came second by only 75 votes. The Sixth Sense came third.