Ben Stiller’s acceptance speech rules the 2012 Britannia Awards

No joke, the 2011 Britannia Awards have given movie fans and television viewers a reason to actually watch the TV Guide Network.  Taped at the Beverly Hilton Wednesday evening, BAFTA Los Angeles’ biggest night honored Pixar guru John Lasseter, Helena Bonham Carter, director David Yates, Ben Stiller and the iconic Warren Beatty.  Alan Cumming hosted, stepping in for Stephen Fry who had MC’d the last few BAFTA’s to critical acclaim (no pressure). Besides the honorees, the evening had lots of famous faces in the room including Morgan Freeman, Piers Morgan,  Anton Yelchin, Robin Williams to name a few, but the show makes TV Guide Network must watch (or must DVR) television for the great acceptance speeches by Carter and Stiller as well as some fantastic introductions by Jason Issacs (for Yates), Williams (Lasseter), Robert Downey, Jr. (Stiller), Oliver Platt (Beatty) and Barry Levinson (also Beatty). 

BAFTA Los Angeles chairman Nigel Lythgoe made a brief speech before the packed ballroom (the same ballroom where the Golden Globes take place ever year began their meal) reminding everyone of the organization’s very busy year.  BAFTA Los Angeles received a huge amount of publicity this summer when Prince William and Catherine, Dutchess of Cambridge attended the BAFTA Brits to Watch party and the larger international organization – BAFTA – will continue to benefit from having Prince William as its president (seem Diana’s boy likes the movies). Moreover and becoming something of a tradition, Lythgoe also took a few shots at his former colleague and now competitor Simon Cowell such as this zinger: “Unfortunately, Simon Cowell can’t be here because of self-inflicted love bites” (No, I didn’t get it either, but the audience laughed).

Eventually, Alan Cumming took the stage and began with a fine monologue joking that the Britannias are about “how much classier and stylish we are than our American counterparts – kidding.” And, since it’s been eight years since he’s hosted this particular event, he’s assuming it’s his career comeback voicing Gutsy Smurf that made it all possible. He also noted the Britannias aren’t slutty like the Oscars.  They only celebrate five honorees.  “We’re the Tim Gunn to the Oscars Kim Kardashian.”  Ouch, pt. 1.  Thankfully, it was then off to the awards.

John Lasseter
Albert R. Broccoli Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Filmed Entertainment
Before Lasseter’s honor began, a short filmed piece on Broccoli, the legendary James Bond film producer, played.  Robin Williams followed and the comedic master kept it surprisingly short.  After noting how Lasseter, a personal friend, had won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and an Emmy, Williams suggested he’d win the Nobel Peace Prize if he could “find a way to animate George Lucas.”  Lasseter’s gave a relatively short speech as well, but struck the one true emotional cord of the night announcing he was sharing the honor with the now departed Steve Jobs.  He reminded everyone how it’s always been about “character” with Pixar and the one thing he lived by in this business was the one thing that Jobs told him when they first met: “just make it great.”

Helena Bonham Carter
Britannia Award for British Artist of the Year

That always charming and sexy Dame Helene Mirren introduced Carter who attended the Britannias without longtime love Tim Burton..  It turns out Mirren and Carter first worked together on the 1991 drama “Where Angels Fear to Tread” and then reconnected about a decade later on a plane ride to Los Angeles where Carter was about to become an ape for Burtons’ “Planet of the Apes” (we assume a friendship blossomed after that). Mirren praised not only Carter’s wide range of work, but her fashion sense which she described as a combination of “birds nest hair,” “fantasy and I don’t give a [expletive].”  Carter, who was quite charming herself in her acceptance speech, lobbed it back at Mirren saying she’s “definitely a goddess of I don’t give a [expletive]” and joked, “I don’t think the Queen knows you have a tattoo.” She also talked about how she’s happy to be at a stage in her life when most actresses are “put out to pasture,” but still working. Especially since she finally feels like she’s getting the hang of this acting thing.  So, yes. The recent best supporting actress nominee was throwing her name out there looking for work (although she just shot two films including a remake of “Great Expectations” and will reunite with Tom Hooper on a movie musical version of “Les Miserables” for next year).

David Yates
John Schlesinger Britannia Award for Excellence in Directing
Out of all the honorees this evening, Yates was the only one who felt a bit false. Yes, he directed acclaimed television such as BBC’s “State of Play” and “Sex Traffic” as well as the Emmy winning HBO TV movie “The Girl in the Cafe.” However, do four “Harry Potter” films really justify this award at this stage in his career?  Jason Issacs gave a hilarious introduction speech praising Yates ability to make everyone on a movie set feel like equals and busting on his skipping from behind the camera to talk to actors after a take (Carter nicknamed him “Skippy” on the “Potter” set).  Unfortunately, even with the additional salutes from “Potter” producer David Heyman (in person) and Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson (via pre-taped video) the award for Yates seemed more like a traditional awards season pitch than anything else.  No doubt, the talented Yates will have ample opportunity to earn it over the coming years.

Ben Stiller

Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy
Hands down, this is the reason you need to watch the show on TV Guide.  Stiller’s “Tropic Thunder” star Robert Downey, Jr. came out with a huge stuffed giraffe (which we later found out was a present for Stiller as its was his birthday) and immediately got the crowd roaring.  Downey, Jr., of course, received an Oscar nomination for playing Chaplin and was wondering why he wasn’t getting the award.  He complained he hadn’t heard from Stiller since they finished “Thunder” (“not even a Christmas card,” “that role could have cost me my career”).  The “Iron Man” star then went on to praise how impressive a director Stiller was on set during the shooting of “Thunder” as well as a number of his comedic roles and films including “Greenberg,” “Zoolander,” “Meet the Parents,” “Night at the Museum,” “The Cable Guy” and thew in a huge zinger with “expect greatness in the future beyond ‘Tower Heist.'” Ouch, pt. 2. 

After a tribute reel featuring directors Wes Anderson, Shawn Levy, Jay Roach and, um, Brett Ratner (whoopsie, should have cut that one out), Stiller headed to the stage.  For some historical perspective, two years ago Stiller introduced honoree Robert De Niro in what was a killer semi-roast of his “Fockers” franchise co-star (De Niro was laughing more than anyone else in the room).  So, when Stiller got up everyone in the ballroom expected something special and boy did he deliver. He was about halfway through when it occurred to me I should actually record this. We cut in with Stiller talking about his influences…

“…Albert Brooks. Charles Grodin in the original ‘Heartbreak Kid.’ A near perfect movie that I decided to make fully perfect. That’s why in my version I added a scene where I get peed on.  Neil Simon and Elaine May? They just missed that.  Other inspiring performances for me – Stever Martin in ‘The Jerk.’  Peter Sellers in ‘Being There.’  Bill Murray as Carl the Groundskeeper in ‘Caddyshack.’ And finally, Jacqueline Bisset in ‘The Deep.’ (Laughs.) It wasn’t that it was a comedy.  Her boobs under the t-shirt when she scuba dived made me want to jump on to the scene. (Laughs.)  If that movie were made today in 3D there wouldn’t be a dry seat in the house. (Laughs.) 

I always loved movies. I know that people have written about me or said about me that I’m a serious – funny guy or the guy who isn’t funny or the guy who doesn’t think he is funny or works hard and is serious and doesn’t think he’s good at it but works hard…guy.  Well I just want to set the record straight here tonight.  I am really, really funny. (Laughs and applause).

I find myself hilarious. At home, I constantly crack myself up.  My colleagues find me endless entertaining and my children are constantly amazed how I balance being a stern disciplinarian and wildly amusing.

So, thank you for this. it does mean a lot and I’d like to thank the people in my life who made this possible. I want to thank all the studios who I have made millions of dollars for. I would like to thank all the studios I have lost millions of dollars for. Not that I am keeping track of it all, but I know they are. (Laughs.) Very, very, very closely which I find comforting.  I’d like to thank my wife and partner of many years Nick Stevens. (Laughs.)  That’s my agent. He came through on the Chaplin. I think we go for the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian next.

I would thank to my actual wife Christine. (Applause.)  She’s been married to comedian for 12 years and all I can say is ‘you’re welcome.’ (Big laughs.)

To my parents their commitment to showbiz and performing was so deep that as an infant I equated love and nurturing with the sound of laughter and applause. As an adult I am only happy with constant adulation from total strangers whose fickle acceptance my well being relies on. I’m proud to be part of that theatrical tradition and hope to carry on those characteristics on to my own children who are right now are home alone, in New York, on my birthday, because being here to accept his award was more important. (Big Laughs.)

And for all you Black Astronauts out there, keep reaching for the stars!”

(You had to be there for that last one.)

Again, set your DVR to catch all of it.  Downey, Jr. was dying on stage during the whole thing.

Warren Beaty

Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film
The final award of the night went to Warren Beatty, but his first presenter was someone you wouldn’t expect to introduce the legendary actor and filmmaker; Oliver Platt.  Beatty’s “Bullworth” co-star began with an entertaining, but overly long story about how he and Beatty became friends and how he was “seduced” by him for over eight months before discovering what movie Beatty actually wanted to talk to him about. It has turned into a lifelong friendship since, so much so that Platt ended with noting many of Beatty’s friends would like him to “get off his ass and make another movie.” That appears to be in the works with Beatty’s long anticipated Howard Hughes biopic already casting.  And that was a fine segue into Beatty’s second presenter, director Barry Levinson.  The “Bugsy” filmmaker noted all the amazing directors Beatty had worked with as an actor (John Schlesinger, Hal Ashby, Robert Altman, Elia Kazan) and how he learned from them.  Levinson also told a funny story about Beatty’s notorious secret ways. While shooting “Bugsy,” Beatty called him over during a setup and told him he wanted to talk to him about something he was “working on.”  Levinson replied, “Howard Hughes?”  Beatty, “How did you know about that? Who told you about that?”  Levinson, “A lot of people know about it.” Beatty, “How long have you heard about it?”  Levinson, “Since 1980.” Of course, it was close to 10 years later.

Beatty eventually made it to the stage and delivered brief, but endearing remarks.  He said he had lots of stories he could tell.  He even had a story for Stiller about hanging out with Charlie Chaplin and Gloria Swanson “that will pin your ears back.” He thanked his sister Shirley MacLaine (who was in attendance) and “my one and only…Annette.”  Both ladies took bows after sustained applause.  He ended the night saying, “How lucky we all are. This is a nice one.”

Indeed it was.

The 2011 Britannia Awards will be broadcast on the TV Guide Network on Dec. 25.

For year round entertainment commentary and award season news follow @HitFixGregory on Twitter.