Staunton and Leigh triumph in Baftas as best film award goes to Scorsese

'Vera Drake' wins a clutch of Baftas, but is beaten to the biggest prize. Anthony Barnes reports on the awards seen as a precursor to the Oscars
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The Independent Culture

Mike Leigh's gritty tale of a backstreet abortionist in post-war Britain, Vera Drake, took two of the biggest prizes at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards last night.

Mike Leigh's gritty tale of a backstreet abortionist in post-war Britain, Vera Drake, took two of the biggest prizes at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards last night.

Leigh was named best director and his leading lady, Imelda Staunton, was named best actress for her acclaimed performance as the eponymous Vera, a kindly cleaner who has a sideline in "helping out" young girls who are in trouble.

Vera Drake, which was shot in east London, won three of the prestigious awards at a glittering ceremony in Leicester Square attended by film stars from round the world. However, the movie missed out on the best film prize, which went to Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, the biopic of the multi-millionaire recluse and flying pioneer Howard Hughes.

Cate Blanchett was named best supporting actress for her role in the film, playing Katharine Hepburn, but its star, Leonardo DiCaprio, failed to capture the best actor award.

That went to the American actor Jamie Foxx, who starred as late singing legend Ray Charles in the biographical film Ray.

The Aviator and Vera Drake headed the tally of awards, winning seven between them. The other prizes were for technical achievements.

British success was also bestowed on Clive Owen for his role in Closer. Owen was once best known for his role in the TV series Chancer, but has now carved out a Hollywood career.

The event was hosted by the comedian and actor Stephen Fry - renowned for his lapses into off-colour humour - in his fifth year as master of ceremonies. Guest presenters at the event included Hollywood stars such as Keanu Reeves, Pierce Brosnan and Richard Gere.

Crowds began to assemble in Leicester Square at 6am yesterday to get the best vantage points to view the stars tottering along the 80-metre red carpet that led to the door of the Odeon Leicester Square.

After theceremony, guests attended a dinner at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane, where they worked their way through £25,000-worth of Taittinger champagne and thousands of bottles of wine. One of the 1,000 diners paid £15,500 to attend, buying a pair of tickets through an auction for the BBC charity Children in Need.

Bafta organisers were involved in a race against time back in Leicester Square to clear the area by midnight, to enable preparations for today's Chinese New Year celebrations. They had just four hours after the close of the ceremony to dismantle a grandstand for 500 people and barriers that had taken three days to put in place.

Security was tight, with 10 times more police than would normally be fielded for a major premiere in the square. Guests warmed up for last night's festivities by schmoozing at a pre-Bafta party at the Wallace Collection in London on Friday. Among those who attended were Scorsese, DiCaprio and the model Claudia Schiffer, accompanied by her husband, the film-maker Matthew Vaughn.

The Baftas are the biggest annual British celebration of the movie industry, which is continuing to thrive in terms of investment and international box-office success.

Although spending on UK movie production in 2004 was down £200m on the previous 12 months, it still represented, at £807m, the second-highest year ever.

Last year was also something of a boom year for UK productions in the US. They took 40 per cent more than they did in 2003, according to figures from the UK Film Council, registering the second best year ever, taking $725m.

The money-spinners included Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Wimbledon and the low-budget hit Shaun of the Dead.

Bafta chiefs like to see their awards as a pointer to the likely results at the Oscars ceremony, which takes place on 27 February in Los Angeles.

FULL LIST OF BAFTA WINNERS

Best Film: 'The Aviator'

Outstanding British Film: 'My Summer of Love'

Special Achievement by a British Director, Producer or Writer in their First Feature Film: Amma Asante, director/writer of 'A Way of Life'

Best Director: Mike Leigh for 'Vera Drake'

Best Original Screenplay: 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'

Best Adapted Screenplay: 'Sideways'

Best Foreign Film: 'The Motorcycle Diaries'

Best Actor: Jamie Foxx for 'Ray'

Best Actress: Imelda Staunton for 'Vera Drake'

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Clive Owen for 'Closer'

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Cate Blanchett for 'The Aviator'

Best Achievement in Music: 'The Motorcycle Diaries'

Best Cinematography: 'Collateral'

Best Editing: 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'

Best Production Design: 'The Aviator'

Best Costume Design: 'Vera Drake'

Best Sound: 'Ray'

Best Make-up & Hair: 'The Aviator'

Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects: 'The Day After Tomorrow'

Best Short Animation Film: 'Birthday Boy'

Best Short Film: 'The Banker'

The Orange Film of the Year (voted by the public): 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban'

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