Magnificent seven for The Artist
Silent film The Artist made a big noise at the Bafta film awards winning seven awards including Best Film, Leading Actor and Best Director.
The film - a homage to the silent era of Hollywood that was lost forever with the arrival of the talkies - swept the board. The only low point was seeing its leading lady Berenice Bejo lose out in the Outstanding Actress award to Meryl Streep.
Streep, who picked up the prize for her role as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, said: "Somebody once said the fate of the well-known is to be misunderstood and the ambition of this film, The Iron Lady, was to look at the life of the Iron Lady from the inside out and to locate something real, maybe hidden, but truthful in the life of someone we've all decided we know everything about already."
Streep suffered a Cinderella moment as she climbed the stairs up to the stage to collect her award. As she approached the podium she accidentally kicked off her black high-heeled shoe, prompting Colin Firth, who was presenting the gong, to rush over and pick it up before placing it on her foot. The gesture earned him a kiss and a cuddle from Streep.
The director of The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius, picked up the gong for Original Screenplay, saying: "I'm very surprised because so many people thought there was no script because there was no dialogue, so English people are very clever. Congratulations to you." Hazanavicius also picked up the Best Director award from Brad Pitt, saying: "I know that I will have some bad days because I'm a director, but I will remember this day as a good day."
The film's star, Jean Dujardin, was presented with the Leading Actor award by Spanish star Penelope Cruz. The French actor admitted he was surprised to get an award in the country of "Laurence Olivier, William Webb Ellis and Benny Hill". The Artist also picked up awards for Original Music, Cinematography and Costume Design.
The awards, held at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, central London, and officially known as the Orange British Academy Film Awards, is the biggest movie bash of the year in the UK and is seen as an accurate pointer for Oscar success which is only make The Artist an even bigger favourite for success at the ceremony in Los Angeles later this month.
Helena Bonham Carter, who won the Best Supporting Actress award last year, gave the Best Supporting Actor gong to Christopher Plummer for Beginners. The Supporting Actress award was presented by Daniel Radcliffe to Octavia Spencer for The Help, which is set against the rise of the civil rights movement in the US deep south. And the award for Outstanding British Film was given to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by Naomie Harris and Berenice Marlohe who will play Bond girls in the next 007 film, Skyfall.
Billy Bob Thornton presented John Hurt with the award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema and called him an "actor's actor". Receiving a standing ovation from the audience, he added: "Who would have thought all those years ago that I would have been sharing the stage of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, with Billy Bob Thornton? How fabulous."
The night ended with a fulsome tribute to British cinema from Raging Bull director Martin Scorsese who was given the Bafta Fellowship. He said British films were "a bit of a mystery and a great marvel".