The BAFTAs were back at Royal Albert Hall on Sunday night, in front of a live audience, and while the event may have been full of fantasy and glitter, the crisis in Ukraine, and the stars’ personal histories, stole the spotlight.
Host Rebel Wilson kicked off the evening making jokes about her recent weight loss and followed up by giving the finger to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Benedict Cumberbatch highlighted the plight of Ukraine, while actress Lashana Lynch thanked her Windrush immigrant ancestors during her acceptance speech for the EE Rising Star award.
Wilson, who arrived on the red carpet in a flourish of Giambattista Valli tiered tulle and sequins, changed into a sparkly red Miu Miu dress with a deep V-neck and power shoulders. Her Veronica Lake hairstyle may have recalled Hollywood’s golden years, but there was nothing old-fashioned about her manners.
The Australian comedian didn’t hold back while introducing a musical performance by the leading actress nominee, Emilia Jones, who plays the only hearing member of a deaf family in “CODA.”
Wilson noted the performance would be interpreted in British and American sign language, and then added: “Luckily, though, in all sign languages, this is the gesture for Putin,” as she showed her middle finger to the audience. Although the gesture was blurred on screen, the message was clear, in all languages.
Russia’s war in Ukraine was also top of mind for Cumberbatch who, like other actors on the night, pinned the Ukrainian colors to their chest. The actor told a Sky News reporter on the red carpet, “It is a really shocking time to be a European, two-and-a-half hours’ flight away from Ukraine. It’s something that hangs over us.”
He added that he was hoping to take refugees into his home, following a callout by the U.K. government to Britons over the weekend.
“We all need to do more than wear a badge, we need to donate and we need to pressure our politicians to continue creating some kind of safety, a refugee haven here for people who are suffering,” Cumberbatch said.
Lynch, who played the first Black female 007 in “No Time to Die,” locking horns with Daniel Craig on screen, recalled her history growing up in a Jamaican British home.
“I have very supportive parents, whose parents came from Jamaica here in the Windrush generation. I have them to thank for my existence. I am grateful for a working-class foundation that has taught me everything I have needed to know about failure, and about what ‘Nos’ mean, and how to celebrate your ‘Yeses.’”
The Windrush generation refers to people who arrived in the U.K. from Caribbean countries between 1948 and 1971 to help fill post-war labor shortages. Lynch also thanked “the women of this country who taught me what it is to be in this industry as a dark-skinned woman. I thank you for laying the foundation for people like me.”
“The Power of the Dog” and “Dune” dominated the awards on Sunday night, with the former winning for Best Film and Director, and the latter scooping Original Score and Cinematography.