David Lister: You want to thank your mum and dad, but we want to hear a decent acceptance speech

The Week in Arts


There are evenings, there are long evenings, and there are the Bafta awards. Tomorrow night, the interminable ceremony will take place, with TV, if past form is anything to go by, at least sparing us some of the lesser awards and concentrating on the more glamorous ones.

But how much better the whole experience would be if we had some decent, interesting, insightful – and dare one hope – funny acceptance speeches. I've no idea who will win, but among the nominees are some of the most interesting and experienced people in film – Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton, Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Martin Scorsese, Gary Oldman and George Clooney.

How fascinating it would be if they could share some of that experience, behind-the-scenes gossip and insights with us. But, be it the Baftas, the Oscars, the Golden Globes or any awards ceremony under the sun, the idea of an interesting acceptance speech seems not to exist.

I have attended numerous awards ceremonies – hence my premature ageing – and I can recall only two memorable acceptance speeches, both actually at theatre awards ceremonies. The first was when Vanessa Redgrave literally broke down in tears as she thanked the stage carpenter; the second was when the beautiful Parisian playwright Yasmina Reza won best comedy award for her play Art, walked elegantly on to the stage, gave an icy glare, said, "It is interesting to win best comedy, as I thought I was writing a tragedy", and departed.

Generally, though, award-winners seem totally unprepared and mumble a few, no, make that a lot, of thank-yous to a seemingly never-ending list of colleagues. A list of thank-yous is not a speech; it's a list. So my wish for the Baftas is that we introduce a set of rules for acceptance speeches.

These would include: not more than two people to be thanked; a humorous anecdote must be included in each speech; and some insight into the making of the film must be given. Do they really not realise that many of the people watching the Baftas are film buffs, hungry for information?

So, Meryl, what are your real views on Mrs Thatcher? What do you feel about the complaints from her friends that it was intrusive for this memorable movie to show her as old and forgetful? Gary, did comparisons with Alec Guinness flatter or irk you? Marty, your most trenchant views on the state of today's film industry, please.

It's mighty odd that the biggest stars in the world act as if they don't know that when they win an award and make a speech, they are performing, and performing in front of a huge audience, every bit as much as if they were on a stage or a film set. So they need to be classy, witty and, yes, if you insist, emotional. But they need to have something to say; they need to entertain, and, with luck, they will leave you gasping. For the right reasons.

How would today's Hedrens react?

In a fascinating interview in The Independent yesterday, the actress Tippi Hedren, star of The Birds and Marnie in the 1960s, spoke about how her director Alfred Hitchcock was infatuated and obsessed with her. When she refused to sleep with him, he kept her on her $600 a week contract but stopped her from working for almost two years. In her words, "he ruined my career, but he didn't ruin my life".

Looking back, Hedren, now 82, says: "To be the object of someone's obsession is horrible", but she adds of her tormentor: "He was such a fabulous drama coach. What better person to have than Alfred Hitchcock? His work as a director was impeccable. I learned so much." Perhaps that admirable even-handedness comes with age. I suspect that many actresses, on having their careers curtailed by an obsessive director, would wax less lyrically about his skills as a drama coach.

From £5 to £7.50 is some booking fee

Thank you for continuing to send me your examples of outrageous booking fees. Each time I think I have heard the worst, one comes to trump them all. Nick Mander writes to tell me that he wanted to buy seats at the Roundhouse, which is to be congratulated on selling £5 tickets to under-25s for the show he was interested in.

When Mr Mander asked to buy some of these tickets, he was told that each ticket comes with a £2.50 booking fee – just the 50 per cent extra charge then. It's an object lesson in how to encourage under-25s to go to the arts, and completely discourage them five seconds later.

d.lister@independent.co.uk // twitter.com/davidlister1

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