Badges of honor
Winning counts, say this year's crop of Britannia Award recipients.MORE: U.K. citizens enjoy Hollywood stronghold
Robert Shaye and Michael Lynne
Co-chairmen and co-CEOs of New Line Cinema
Cunard Britannia Award for Lifetime Contributions to International Film
Forthcoming Releases: "Martian Child" (Nov. 2); "The Golden Compass" (Dec. 7)
The Hollywood Reporter: What does getting a Britannia mean to you?
Michael Lynne: It's very exciting: the whole idea (that) the cinema in the States and the cinema in the U.K. is not only connected by a common language, but there are common aesthetics and common history there, and they're intertwined in a significant way -- so BAFTA is very important in the whole history of film as it has developed in the English-speaking world. And over the years, New Line has had a very strong connection to the British cinema industry, so we feel an affinity.
Robert Shaye: New Line's business has always been very cognizant of the importance of not only films we distribute, but films we produce to the international community, and of course one of the most important English-speaking territories being the U.K., we are keenly aware of and desirous of making films that appeal to the U.K. I'm personally very proud that BAFTA saw it appropriate to award the award to Michael and me, because it validates the efforts we've made over the years.
THR: The award is slated for "contributions to international film," but what stands out to most people when they think of New Line and overseas is the enormous success you had with your "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
Shaye: Well, but a really key element of New Line's business plan has been to enlist international partners even at the preproduction stage for films that we're producing, and to have a sensitized understanding of the risks and rewards we're offering them.
Lynne: We've had a long-term relationship with (Material Entertainment joint managing directors Nigel and Trevor Green). There is a partnership between New Line and Material Entertainment to develop and produce films not only for the worldwide market, but in some
specific way to the U.K. and the U.S. That's just an indication of the symbiotic situation between New Line and our partners in the U.K. and the U.K. film industry, and New Line and the U.S. film industry.
THR: What are your favorite British films?
Shaye: All of the Alec Guinness films, particularly (1951's) "The Man in the White Suit," (1953's) "The Captain's Paradise." And I love this film that really helped shape my enthusiasm for fantasy and science fiction, (1936's) "Things to Come." Those are three of many titles.
Lynne: One (film) we distributed through Fine Line (in 1993) called "Naked," which is an extraordinary film that Mike Leigh made. I'm quite proud we were involved with it.
John Schlesinger Britannia Award for Artistic Excellence in Directing
Forthcoming Releases: In preproduction for Paramount's "36" and Fox's "Unstoppable"
The Hollywood Reporter: Does the Britannia Award come as a bit of a surprise?
Martin Campbell: I always get a bit of a shock when (I win an award). I've tended to do "entertainment" movies rather than serious drama. People don't recognize entertainment films as such, so I was very flattered.
THR: There's a tradition of British TV directors segueing into film. Why is that?
Campbell: The BBC in the '80s when I was there, television was done very differently. There wasn't the kind of restrictions it has (in America). I did a (1985) series called "Edge of Darkness" -- and if it ran 43 minutes that was fine, if it ran 56 minutes that was fine, they didn't even query it, because there are no ads on BBC TV. So it was a natural jump to go from there to doing movies.
THR: Do you have any favorite helmers?
Campbell: One of my favorite directors is Sidney Lumet. I had seen 2006's "Find Me Guilty," which was wonderfully done. Vin Diesel is brilliant in that, and I was particularly interested that Sidney got that performance out of him. So I rang him and told him how Vin's performance was such an ingratiating, charming performance and how I wanted to get to the bottom of it. In Sidney's case it's not technique, he's very unobtrusive. He's not a director that shows off with the camera; he's far more interested in his characters and relationships than he is with the camera.
British Artist of the Year
Forthcoming Releases: Recently wrapped DreamWorks' "Revolutionary Road" (2008); provided a voice for Miramax's animated "Gnomeo and Juliet" (2008)
The Hollywood Reporter: You're rather assertively proud of your British heritage. Where does that come from?
Kate Winslet: It's where I'm from. England, it's a small place, and I do feel very proud to represent my country in some way. There's a handful of us that have been lucky enough to step outside the box, who have been given opportunities to be in films. I feel a duty and a responsibility to do my job as well as I can because I do feel a sense of setting an example. It's very important to me to work hard, and I don't believe in bad behavior of any kind for any actor anyway, so that's not something I have to try at, but it's important to suggest that young British actors are hard workers and want to really do the best job they possibly can. And I care very much about the job that I do. Second to my husband (director Sam Mendes) and my kids, it's definitely the love of my life and, I'm respectful of the position that I'm in and very determined never to drop the ball.
THR: Then you're the right woman to be British Artist of the Year, although 2007 hasn't been much of year of releases for you to date.
Winslet: I have been working; that's no mistake. I think I had so much going on last year that I just had a lot of movies come out in the space of four months. It's not necessarily an ideal scenario for an actor to have so much exposure in such a short space of time -- it's important to maintain a sense of mystery as an actor -- but you have to have life too, because life is very much a part of the job that actors do. I deliberately didn't want to have something necessarily coming out right now, just so I could have that quiet time. Although I did have a very busy summer: I shot "Revolutionary Road," which Sam (Mendes) directed and it was myself and Leo DiCaprio playing husband and wife. I still feel like I'm recovering from a pretty extraordinary experience.
THR: What's your reaction to receiving this award?
Winslet: My immediate reaction is, "Why are they giving it to me?" And that's not false modesty, that's (me being) genuinely overwhelmed. Awards do mean a hell of a lot, and they certainly mean a lot to me, and I'm speaking as someone who has been fortunate to have been nominated for some pretty hefty awards in my time. But I have an irritating habit of never winning, so I'm really not used to this.
THR: You've been quoted as characterizing many of the roles you play as "ballsy" women. Is that by design?
Winslet: It's a subconscious attraction I have to women who are strong and/or have something to say for themselves or have this kind of inner fight in them. At the same time it's possible to play a weaker-willed woman and give them an inner strength, still give them an inner determination despite their exterior weaknesses. The character of April Wheeler that I have just played in "Revolutionary Road," by design does come across as she's relatively weak -- but underneath it is the most devastating cacophony of fucked-up'edness, for want of a better expression. Again, it's just this personal desire that I have to really feel things. That's how I am as a person: a pretty feisty, strong-willed individual -- and when I'm hugging someone I'm literally hugging them until they can't breathe. I just don't do anything by halves.
Forthcoming Releases: MGM/The Weinstein Co.'s "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" (2008); writing-directing the feature "The Boat that Rocked"
The Hollywood Reporter: You've written numerous romantic comedies, but you're less well-known for creating "Comic Relief" and executive producing Fox's "Idol Gives Back" earlier this year, two successful charity projects. Have you always been philanthropically oriented?
Richard Curtis: I spent four years when I was very young in the Philippines. So I was very aware there, perhaps at my parents' prompting, of the unequal life we were leading. I was very aware of the huge shantytowns only a few miles from where we lived with a swimming pool. But I sort of fell into the stuff that I do, the "Comic Relief" and eventually "Idol Gives Back," by a strange -- as so often happens in life -- a strange series of coincidences.
THR: Do you think that maybe more people are willing to listen to the hard issues when they're presented in a lighter format?
Curtis: I don't know. The great thing is if you can get these issues into the mainstream. There's tremendous reason for making small intense things, because they will also have an intense effect on people, but it is your job if you're trying to get this stuff out there to work out the way in which it can best be seen. The comedy thing -- and "Idol" -- it's a fundraising technique. You give people stuff that they love and intertwine with it serious things which they'll watch, and hopefully actually end up more interested in them than the comedy or music.
THR: What's the trick to writing funny?
Curtis: Having the confidence to think that the stuff you and your friends laugh at is funny and not to be frightened by the idea, that someone you don't like will laugh at this thing. In my early days I'd write 10 sketches, and I didn't know which were the best ones until the people I lived with walked back through the door. Then it would be the ones that I actually wanted to tell them that were the funniest. I don't think I've ever written anything that's as funny as all my friends are, late at night, slightly drunk. But I'm trying.
In addition, Denzel Washington will receive the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film at this year's Britannia Awards.