In a potential preview of Oscar night, Britain's top BAFTA awards went to Julia Roberts and Ang Lee and to Gladiator for Best Film and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for Best Foreign Language Film Sunday night.
The Best Actor race can't be duplicated stateside however: 14-year-old Jamie Bell walked off with the prize for his work as the dancing lead of Billy Elliot. Bell didn't make the cut for the American Academy Awards, but all his BAFTA competition — except Wonder Boys star Michael Douglas — did.
Gladiator star Russell Crowe (who's become a showbiz mentor of sorts to young Bell), perennial Oscar favorite Tom Hanks, and Geoffrey Rush will all vie again March 25 for the Best Actor Oscar.
According to Reuters, Crowe, Hanks, and Rush were anything but sore losers when Bells' name was called out, whooping and wolf-whistling as Bell made his way through the leopard-skin seats to collect his award.
"I was kind of thinking about not bothering coming, I thought what's the point," the 14-year-old said. "I'm hoping to go behind a camera eventually when I can reach the lens," the cheeky schoolboy told reporters. He will be hoping to emulate the success of Billy Elliot director Stephen Daldry whose feature also won Best British Film.
"It's certainly not what we expected when we made the film … It's been a surprise, a delight, an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish," Daldry said.
Gladiator, Tiger Each Nab 4 Awards
The BAFTAs, often criticized for being a purely British affair, attracted a record number of international stars this year and the two top movies were a Hollywood blockbuster and a Chinese love story.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Gladiator each picked up four awards at the glitzy ceremony in London's West End.
Besides taking the Best Film plum, the lavish epic Gladiator won awards for cinematography, editing, and production design.
But Ridley Scott missed out on Best Director to Ang Lee, whose Mandarin-language film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon also won Best Foreign Language Film and awards for music and costume."For a Chinese language film to get this far, I think it's phenomenal," Lee told reporters.
Michelle Yeoh, the female lead, said the film was a good showcase for China's cinematic potential, demonstrating its wealth of scenery and acting talent. "China is trying to open up so much more to the rest of the world," she said.
Julia Roberts denied Yeoh the Best Actress award, with her performance in Erin Brockovich as a legal secretary who brings a giant corporation to its knees. Julie Walters's portrayal of a ballet teacher in Billy Elliot won her Best Supporting Actress. Best Supporting Actor went to Benicio Del Toro for Traffic, beating the late British actor Oliver Reed, who died during filming of Gladiator.
Perhaps the greatest honor of the evening went to Albert Finney who received the Academy Fellowship, the highest accolade given by BAFTA in recognition of a glittering cinematic career.
Asked if such an award suggested his imminent retirement, Finney replied: "Old actors don't retire, their parts just get smaller." This is the first year that the BAFTAs were held before their American equivalent.
Reuters contributed to this story.