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With Stephen Fry having given up his hosting duties after a record 12 editions, BAFTA has turned to arguably an even bigger British national treasure for its latest awards ceremony: Joanna Lumley, who will be taking the reins Feb. 18 at London’s famed Royal Albert Hall.
Ahead of the biggest film awards outside the U.S., Lumley explains why she won’t be making any political gags, how the British equivalent of #MeToo might look on the night and whether her most famous onscreen character — Absolutely Fabulous‘ champers-guzzling Patsy — will be making an appearance.
Do you have any nerves about stepping into Stephen Fry’s well-trodden BAFTA shoes?
Stephen is a huge friend of mine. I shall do my level best to fit into those huge shoes. He’s such a consummate, easy, welcoming, darling host, but we’re different. So I shan’t copy him, because you can’t do that. I’ll just do my best to be me and make everyone welcome.
Has he given you any tips?
He said something terribly funny but very true: Nobody has ever complained that an awards ceremony is too short. He also told me to remember that our job is as host. We’re not the main entertainment; we are literally the host. We’re the silken strands that join people together.
Do you think this will be a newer, revamped BAFTAs with you at the helm?
I don’t really want it to change. There’s something quite serious about all this. We’re the British academy, and the Oscars are the American academy, so this is the senior prefects’ table.
Any particular hosting style you like and might try to emulate?
I do a lot of awards ceremonies, so I’m used to the whole easing people on, easing people off, mopping their tears. But I’m not a stand-up comic. I’m not a satirist. I’m not a political commentator. People know me because I’ve been banging around the block for 100 years, so why would I be someone completely different?
You’ve already said you won’t be pulling out any Weinstein gags. How about Trump? Brexit?
I’m not really going to do any heavy political commentary, because for people who do come up and have something to say, it’s absolutely up to them. It’s their night, it’s not mine. My part is to be quite dignified, but if everyone else wants to put their pants on their head and scream, that’s fine by me.
How do you think the #MeToo movement seen at the Golden Globes will translate to the BAFTAs?
It’s going to be so interesting. I noticed at the SAG Awards all the girls were in gorgeous dresses. So maybe the Golden Globes was the [only] night of wearing black to protest. I’ll just see whether people are still feeling enough of it to warrant it going on or feeling that we’ve got to look to the future. We all know … it’s all out in the open now. The Golden Globes have made everyone so aware of it.
How about yourself, will you be wearing black?
I don’t think so. But let’s put it like this: I won’t be wearing shocking pink. I want to look like a dignified host. But I do think I’m going to look pretty fab, not showy.
Any temptations to give Patsy a brief whirl onstage, perhaps brandishing a glass of champagne?
Well, I know I won’t be allowed a glass of Bolly onstage, but sometimes Patsy creeps through. She doesn’t mean to, but sometimes she just has to have a word. I’ll try to keep her under control for the night!
This story first appeared in the Feb. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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