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Last Updated:  Sunday, 23 February, 2003, 23:44 GMT
Bafta joins the big boys
By Rebecca Thomas
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Nicole Kidman
Nicole Kidman: Won the glamour queen award from the crowd
Bafta's bigwigs must be giving themselves a hefty slap on their collective backs, after having pulled off arguably their most successful film awards ceremony yet.

For starters, that most merciless of killjoys, the great British weather, remained gloriously fine, banishing all ghosts of last year's sodden event.

On top of that, the ceremony was spectacularly dazzling, with a wealth of international film stars turning up as nominees or to present an award.

And, in a surprise move, the Academy also created headlines in being generous across the board, honouring most of the year's big films with something, and not making the star of the evening out of any one.

It's incredible, there is such a lot of noise
Meryl Streep
The magnanimous tone was set right from the start.

The crowds lined up along the red carpet outside the Odeon Leicester Square worked themselves into a near frenzy with every new celebrity arrival.

Most had been waiting for the best part of the day, seduced no doubt by the uncharacteristically balmy February weather.

Crowd-pleasing feat

As the minutes ticked by, the rise in excitement became increasingly obvious as group screams suggested early arrivals, although the red carpet remained bare.

Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas
Zeta Jones and Douglas received one of the warmest welcomes
Their practice paid off once the stars did begin to appear and the hysteria became deafening.

First on the scene was Tomb Raider star Angelina Jolie, there to present the award for best supporting actor.

In a measure of how high-profile the Baftas have become, Jolie spent almost an hour "working the crowd", much to the delight of her fans, one of which screamed above the rest: "She's my woman!"

Jolie's indulgence was then matched again and again with each new celebrity arrival, from Julianne Moore, Martin Scorsese and Daniel Day-Lewis to Nicole Kidman and Catherine Zeta Jones.

Such crowd-pleasing was no mean feat since this year Bafta had pulled out all the stops to match any awards ceremony known to man, laying on a red carpet that seemed to sweep for miles - albeit past Pizza Express and Burger King.

This is just like being at the Oscars
Sir Michael Caine
And the effort was not wasted on the stars, who almost unanimously expressed amazement at the glitz factor that had overtaken the Baftas.

Meryl Streep, a star of The Hours and Adaptation, squealed with delight when asked what she thought of Bafta's moves to vamp up their film awards.

"It's incredible, there is such a lot of noise," Streep said open-mouthed.

Sir Michael Caine, star of The Quiet American, was equally impressed.

Statuesque frame

"This is just like being at the Oscars, I've never seen so many press. I was stunned, " Sir Micheal said.

And the big names kept coming, weaving from one side of the crowd to other with huge grins plastered across their faces at the warm welcome.

Daniel Day-Lewis
Daniel Day-Lewis seemed genuinely pleased to be there as he pressed the flesh
Predictably, the crowd's most vociferous reaction was lavished on Catherine Zeta Jones, there for her role in Chicago, and Nicole Kidman, star of The Hours.

The heavily pregnant Zeta Jones came with husband Michael Douglas and both said how pleased they were to be in London.

But for glamour, there was no outdoing Kidman, whose statuesque frame was dressed in white satin which guaranteed she stood out from the crowd.

Martin Scorsese, director of Gangs of New York, was inspired to express his respect for the British film awards.

"The British film industry is very important to me, it has given me great inspiration over the years and Bafta has always recognised my work."

Lip-biting tension

In the event, of course, Scorsese's epic movie - one that has taken him almost 20 years to bring to the screen - won just one award, best actor for Daniel Day-Lewis - even though it had been nominated for 12.

But such proved to be the pattern of the night at the awards themselves.

Even though both Gangs of New York and musical Chicago had 12 nominations each and The Hours carried 11, a clean sweep did not emerge.

With each new category, the anticipation of a start of an awards roll for one of the front-runners was tangible. But again and again, the lip-biting tension was deflated.

Master of ceremonies Stephen Fry cracked jokes and performed in his own amiable fashion.

All that was left for the nominees to do was sit back and enjoy what was, in terms of trophy-giving, a fairly uneventful but thoroughly cosy occasion.

But, where glamour, profile and excitement were concerned, Bafta could have wanted no greater evidence that their annual ceremony had finally arrived.





Renee Zellweger In Pictures
The stars and dresses at the 54th Bafta ceremony

Other winners

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