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As chief executive, Amanda Berry is credited with transforming BAFTA from a moribund institution into a charitable organization with teeth. Under her watch and alongside BAFTA vp Duncan Kenworthy, the Orange British Academy Film Awards has become a world-class trophy ceremony. On the eve of the 2011 edition, Berry spoke about the BAFTAs’ influence on the Oscars, getting A-listers to come to London and dealing with last-minute snafus.
What makes BAFTA night a success?
I want a ceremony that pays proper respect to all those filmmakers and actors involved. It’s really important to me that every aspect of their experience is terrific — from attending the style suites to having their hair done to all the parties leading up to the night itself. But it’s also about making sure that from that event we have a two-hour TV program that now goes out to every territory in the world, which showcases the very best of film.
Moving the awards ceremony from April to February a decade ago was a big gamble at the time. Was the decision about having more influence on the Oscars?
Before moving the awards, we spent time really trying to work out where we wanted to be in awards season. We wanted to move the British awards into a period when the world is focused on film. There’s so much awareness of that January/February period with the Globes, SAG, the Directors Guild and the American Academy Awards. But because we spent a lot of time talking to the industry before we moved, we did have the whole film business wanting to help us make it work.
How hard is it to get A-listers to travel all the way to London in the middle of a very crowded awards season?
Well, it isn’t easy. We are a little island in the middle of a huge ocean, and we have people coming from all around the world. We do a lot of phone bashing. If people are filming, then we lobby the producers of those films and say, “Look, please will you release them?” Literally, we call everybody, and people make incredible efforts to get them here. The year that Russell Crowe was nominated for A Beautiful Mind (2002), he was in the U.K. on the Wednesday or Thursday for the British premiere and had to go back to Australia for the premiere there — then came all the way back for the awards on the Sunday. That’s extraordinary.
Given all the controversies around Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes, what do you think a host — you’ve got Jonathan Ross again this year — should and shouldn’t be allowed to do?
I haven’t seen the Globes, but I do think that hosting an awards ceremony is a really difficult job. They’re standing in front of a large audience. It’s a tense room and a tough crowd. The host has to be able to make that audience feel that they can relax and enjoy the evening. As well as presenting the ceremony itself, they are also presenting to a TV audience of millions, which is a really tough balance to get right. They have to be part of the story, but they have to leave room for the nominees and the winners as well.
What have been your best and worst BAFTA moments?
Best moments, there’s lots of them. Duncan Jones’ speech last year for Moon, Mickey Rourke’s speech after winning for The Wrestler. Worst moments? Probably when it’s all over and the adrenaline is gone — or sitting in the hall during the ceremony when I thought there was a technical problem that I couldn’t do anything about. Oh, and one year, when there was so much rain that the fire-retardant red carpet became a sea of foam. There are a lot of shoes that will be fire retardant for life after that one.
Sunday, Feb. 13
5 p.m. PST (BBC America)
Royal Opera House, London
Harry Potter’s Big Award | Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema
During the Feb. 13 ceremony, BAFTA will recognize the Harry Potter franchise for its decade-long contribution to the British filmmaking industry, in which the films have showcased British talent onscreen (Daniel Radcliffe, Ralph Fiennes) and behind the camera. The Potter films have cast a spell over audiences since 2001 with their blend of adventure, danger and whimsy to the tune of more than $5.4 billion in worldwide box office, making the seven Warner Bros. films the top-grossing franchise of all time. (The eighth and final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, opens July 15.) Book series author J.K. Rowling and producer David Heyman will accept the award.
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