For one-time stutterer David Seidler, the screenwriter of The King's Speech, it was the night he finally found his voice. His royal drama, telling the story of how King George VI overcame his stammer, picked up an extraordinary seven Baftas last night, suggesting there will be few impediments to the film romping home at the Academy Awards later this month.
The film and its cast, Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush, won Baftas for best film, original music, actor, supporting actress, outstanding British film, supporting actor and original screenplay at the ceremony at Covent Garden's Royal Opera House last night.
"I owe [director] Tom [Hooper] a huge debt of gratitude," said Seidler upon accepting the award for original screenplay. "My king, Colin, you so nailed it. It was just wonderful. I hope you are awarded the way you should be. The story is two men in a room and it seems to have spoken to the world. For a stutterer to be heard is a wonderful thing."
The film was followed with The Social Network's three wins for adapted screenplay, editing and David Fincher's award for best director. Fincher's award was collected by the film's stars Andrew Garfield and Jesse Eisenberg, who described working on the project as "exhilarating".
Christopher Nolan's Inception also won three awards, for sound, production design and visual effects. Best actress was won by Natalie Portman for Black Swan. The Bafta fellowship was awarded to Sir Christopher Lee by the director Tim Burton. Sir Christopher said it was a "great honour".
"I like coming here," said Firth upon accepting the award for best actor. "The day I had my first meeting with [The King's Speech's director] Tom Hooper I had to postpone a routine medical exam. I am pleased to report the meeting with Tom was a lot more edifying. But as time went on it became clear that his working methods were every bit as thorough."
The award for outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer was won by Chris Morris for Four Lions, about British jihadists. Nigel Lindsay, who picked up the award with co-star Adeel Akhtar, said: "Chris has just sent us a text message saying he has doused himself in petrol and is holding a lighter."
Morris was unable to attend the ceremony but a host of others from the world of film braved the February rain to be there. They included Paddy Considine, Dev Patel, Minnie Driver, James McAvoy, Kevin Spacey, Emma Watson and Jessica Alba.
Danny Boyle, nominated as best director for 127 Hours, said: "We were here a couple of years ago with Slumdog Millionaire so it's lovely to be back here again." He said of his film, the true story of trapped climber Aron Ralston's ordeal in the Utah hills: "We are privileged to have been able to make the movie. It's a bit of a suicidal film because it's one guy on his own."
A surprise winner was Tom Hardy who took the Orange Wednesdays rising Star award, presented by Tom Ford and Eva Green, for Inception, despite Andrew Garfield being widely tipped withThe Social Network.
Hiccups with the autocue left actors Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike stranded during the presentation of the award for original screenplay, but otherwise the event went as planned. Host Jonathan Ross took to the stage shortly after 7pm. "We are all looking forward to the winners making their speeches but do please keep it short," he quipped. "Colin Firth if you do win for your brilliant portrayal of George VI, please do not make your speech in character."
The winners in full
Fellowship: Christopher Lee
Best Film: The King’s Speech
Leading Actor: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
Leading Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Director: David Fincher, The Social Network
Cinematography: Roger Deakins, True Grit
Supporting Actress: Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech
Supporting Actor: Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech
Original Screenplay: David Seidler, The King’s Speech
Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Outstanding Debut: Chris Morris, Four Lions
Outstanding British Film: The King’s Speech
Outstanding British Contribution: The Harry Potter Films
Film Not in the English Language: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Rising Star: Tom Hardy
Animated Film: Toy Story 3
Original Music: Alexandre Desplat, The King’s Speech
Short Film: The River Runs Red
Short Animation: The Eagleman Stag
Editing: The Social Network
Make Up & Hair: Alice in Wonderland
Costume Design: Colleen Atwood, Alice in Wonderland
Production Design: Inception
Special Visual Effects: Inception