Seeing Helena Bonham Carter strolling the red carpet in bare feet, carrying her platform heels, wearing a witty chapeau atop her trademark bird's nest hair set the tone for the wild and wacky BAFTA LA Britannia Awards, held Wednesday (Nov. 30) at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
It was all downhill (or uphill, if you like to laugh for over an hour) from there. Robert Downey Jr. inexplicably carried a giant stuffed giraffe onstage and opined that he was not the winner of the Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy award before presenting it to his friend and Tropic Thunder director Ben Stiller.
"This is embarrassing, presenting the Charlie Chaplin Award," Downey deadpanned. "I played Charlie Chaplin, you know. And pretty damn well, I might add."
He's got a point. He was actually nominated for an Academy Award for the performance of the silent screen star in 1993. But the award went to Stiller, who told the audience he had his eye on this particular prize for his entire career.
"I've been trying to win the Chaplin award for years. A lot of people don’t know that I have been gunning for the Chappy for a long, long time. When I would hire a new agent, I would say, 'Show me the Chappy.' They’d say, 'Ben, we don’t control that or that’s not important or that’s a weirdly specific goal.' But I just smiled because I knew it was going happen.
Stiller also admitted that when he was first told about last night's event, "I thought it was the Black Astronauts Flight Training Association. I didn’t know what that was, but it sounded like a fun night. I have always believed that the color of a man's skin should not prohibit him from going into space."
Elaborating (and giving people a chance to catch their breath) Stiller explained, "When I was told I was going to receive a high British honor, for a few giddy days I thought I was actually going to be knighted. But then it was explained to me that the BAFTAs are like the Academy Awards for British people, which is what I thought the Golden Globes were."
But he was finally persuaded to attend: "When I was told that it’s an awards show and it’s going to be broadcast on the TV Guide Channel, I said, 'Say no more. You had me at broadcast and you really had me at TV Guide Channel.' I have been looking to break into half the TV screens for a long time. If any of you at home see a program below me that you’d like to watch, by all means change the channel. That’s what we’re here for."
Helen MIrren presented the Britannia Award for British Artist of the Year to Helena Bonham Carter and showered praise on her friend for her style, wit, individuality and talent. Bonham Carter confessed she was just happy to keep getting acting gigs and yes, she's available. Warren Beatty received his Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film from good friend Barry Levinson. Robin Williams presented pal Lasseter with his award and annointed him "The grand poobah of a digital dynasty, the crown prince of Pixar," adding, "If you could figure out a way to animate George Lucas, you could win a Nobel Prize."
Harry Potter producer David Heyman praised Potter director David Yates at length, even though he was anxious about his comedic competition: "I have to share the stage with (X-Men 2) Nightcrawler, Zoolander, the Queen, and bloody Mork. This is right up there on my list of things to do next to having an intestinal transplant." He presented the director with the John Schlesinger Britannia Award for Artistic Excellence in Directing.
Even BAFTA LA Chairman Nigel Lithgow got some laughs explaining The X-Factor judge Simon Cowell’s absence at the start of the evening: "Simon will not be with us this evening. He’s home recovering from self-inflicted love bites."
And Master of Ceremony’s Alan Cumming explained the difference between the BAFTAs and the Oscars: "We are very picky about who we lavish our affections on. So much so that we make the Oscars look downright slutty. To use a reality TV metaphor, We are the Tim Gunn to the Oscars’ Kim Kardashian."
But John Lasseter got sincere and serious. Accepting the Albert Broccoli Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Filmed Entertainment, he tipped his hat to a very important person in his life, the late Steve Jobs.
"I pitched him this story and Steve asked only one thing of me and for my entire life with Steve Jobs, he only asked one thing of me. He said 'Make it great.' The film was Tin Toy and it went on to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film (1988), the first Academy Award ever given to computer animation. So I share this award with Steve Jobs and with all the amazing artists at the three fantastic animation studios I am lucky enough to lead and all my partners at Disney, Bob Iger, Rich Ross, and Allan Bergman."
View photos from BAFTA Los Angeles' Britannia Awards here.