BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Our dazzling new Oscar young ones… and oh how different their life stories are!
Shorn of much of its normal glitz and glamour but retaining the rambling speeches, it was criticised by some as a snooze-fest
And for one of the five British winners, Sunday night’s Oscars ceremony really was. Sir Anthony Hopkins, 83, was fast asleep at home in Wales by the time he was announced as the oldest-ever winner of the best actor award for his portrayal of a dementia sufferer in The Father.
As it was the final award, his non-appearance to collect a statuette was an anticlimactic end to an evening already muted because of Covid. His agent Jeremy Barber said: ‘Tony was in Wales and he was asleep at four in the morning when I woke him up to tell him the news.’
Sir Anthony Hopkins, 83, was fast asleep at home in Wales by the time he was announced as the oldest-ever winner of the best actor award for his portrayal of a dementia sufferer in The Father
Emerald Fennell, winner of the award for best original screenplay for “Promising Young Woman,” poses in the press room at the Oscars in Los Angeles
Fellow Britons Emerald Fennell and Daniel Kaluuya were on hand to pick up their awards at the makeshift venue, Union Station in Los Angeles.
Sir Anthony admitted he had expected the best actor Oscar to go to the late Chadwick Boseman, who was favourite to win for his final role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
The Welshman, who won his first statuette 30 years ago for playing serial killer Hannibal Lecter in The Silence Of The Lambs, posted a video on Instagram yesterday morning, saying: ‘At 83 years of age, I did not expect to get this award.’
He paid tribute to Boseman, then added: ‘I really didn’t expect this and I feel privileged and honoured.’
American TV viewing figures for the Oscars were catastrophic, plunging to 9.85million, a 58.3 per cent or 13.75million drop-off from last year’s numbers
The Father also won best adapted screenplay for British writer Sir Christopher Hampton and his French collaborator Florian Zeller – they wrote the original stage version. Best original screenplay went to Miss Fennell, for Promising Young Woman, the MeToo revenge thriller which she also directed.
Londoner Kaluuya created one of the ceremony’s most talked about moments as he accepted his best supporting actor Oscar for Judas And The Black Messiah – an off-the-cuff comment about his parents’ sex life brought an embarrassed ‘What did he say?’ reaction from his mother watching in London.
Saying he felt great to be alive, Kaluuya casually noted: ‘I think it’s pretty obvious that my parents had sex’. Cut to shocked look on Damalie Namusoke’s face as she watched her son from the Oscars London hub at the British Film Institute. Later, Kaluuya joked that his mum ‘has a sense of humour’ but that he would be dodging her texts.
The fifth British winner was Stafford-born Andrew Lockley, who shared the visual effects Oscar for the blockbuster Tenet.
That was one of the few films nominated that made it into cinemas rather than being available only via streaming services. With cinemas closed, there has been little collective engagement in the films in such a diverse year. Frances McDormand, who took best actress for big winner Nomadland, paid tribute to the late sound mixer Michael Wolf Snyder by howling like a wolf, then reminded us to go out and see the nominated films in a cinema ‘on the largest screen possible’.
For all the pre-show promises, the ceremony still ran for a plodding three hours with acceptance speeches that were allowed to ramble. It was hostless for the second year running, as if there needed to be a sense of reverence and solemnity because of the pandemic. But people at home were craving glamour. They got it in fits and starts on the reduced Union Station red carpet. A ‘fashion feed’ showed guests removing their masks to pose for photographs. They’d replace them immediately afterwards. The show’s producers, led by filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, elevated the best actor category to pride of place as the final award, expecting Boseman’s name would be called by presenter Joaquin Phoenix, making for an emotional finale.
The move backfired spectacularly. It is understood that Sir Anthony’s team told the organisers he would not be attending, but no contingency plans were made.
A posh girl’s slog to justify her privilege
By Alison Boshoff
Carey Mulligan, pictured, studied at £39,000-a-year Marlborough College and then read English at Oxford. Agent Lindy King saw her in a university production and snapped her up immediately
To win an Oscar for best original screenplay with your first movie script would be enough to leave anyone breathless.
Emerald Fennell’s charmingly chaotic response to her triumph on Sunday night – ‘They said write a speech, and I didn’t, because I just didn’t think this would ever happen’ – puts her firmly in the Kate Winslet vein of ever-so-modest British mega-successes.
The question is: What does she have to be modest about?
And the answer: Not much. She has proved a hit as an actress (Camilla in The Crown), an author of novels (young adult tomes Monsters, Shiverton Hall and The Creeper), an adapter of books for television (Killing Eve) and now a writer of Hollywood scripts (Promising Young Woman).
Actress Reese Witherspoon was seen taking a Covid test before she presented an award at Sunday night’s ceremony – a requirement for all the guests
In May we shall see the fruits of her work on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical retelling of Cinderella – and then next year her attempt at a popcorn blockbuster in the shape of Warner Bros superhero film Zatanna.
Along the way she has quietly got married, had one son and, as she revealed at the Oscars, is now pregnant again.
The daughter of society jeweller Theo Fennell, she grew up well-connected and wealthy.
Family friends included Lord Lloyd-Webber, Sir Elton John, Dame Joan Collins, Liz Hurley and Ronnie Wood.
For the Oscars the star wore jewellery designed by her father – chrysanthemum earrings and a purple tourmaline ring.
The actress studied at £39,000-a-year Marlborough College and then read English at Oxford. Agent Lindy King saw her in a university production and snapped her up immediately.
‘At the time, you don’t realise how unbelievably lucky you are,’ she said. ‘The moment I started working, I became aware that I had been skipping round in a candy land. It made me feel even more like I needed to work very, very hard in order to justify that privilege.’
Promising Young Woman she ‘coughed up like a hairball’, she said.
The film, in which Carey Mulligan pretends to be blackout drunk to teach predatory men a lesson, was shot in just 23 days, while Fennell was pregnant. As she told an interviewer: ‘Work, to me, is like a chocolate digestive – I can never just have one.’
Richly deserved gong for truly golden oldie
By Brian Viner
What a crying shame that the remarkable achievement of Sir Anthony Hopkins in becoming the oldest person ever to win an acting Oscar has been undermined by all those moaning that this year’s best actor award should have gone to the late Chadwick Boseman.
No, it shouldn’t. If the Oscars are to be taken at all seriously – and heaven knows that was as hard to do on Sunday as it is most years, what with political speechifying, wolf-like ululating and references to parental sex – then the acting prizes need to recognise the year’s greatest performances, and to hell with sentimentality.
Boseman was terrific in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. But in The Father, where he played a man falling prey to dementia, Hopkins was better.
This working-class Port Talbot baker’s son – and recovering alcoholic – is one of the finest screen actors of all time. The single Oscar he already had, for The Silence Of The Lambs in 1992, manifestly wasn’t enough. It’s wonderful that at 83 he’s bagged his second.
Dressing down? Emerald Fennell, who won the Best Original Screenplay award, wore elaborate Gucci trainers under her billowing green and pink gown
Yet he should already have at least another two. I’d have anointed him, before Tom Hanks in Philadelphia and Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, for 1993’s The Remains Of The Day and 2019’s The Two Popes.
Both films were exquisitely written, yet it’s hard to imagine anyone but Hopkins investing those roles – one, a repressed English butler, the other, a conservative German pontiff – with quite so much pathos.
We all know his acting style practically as well as we know his name. The slight narrowing of the eyes, the barely discernible tilt of the head, the jut of the chin, the whisper, the roar… but his genius lies in the way his audiences believe so utterly in his character while never entirely forgetting they’re watching Anthony Hopkins. That’s not so of all great actors.
84 Charing Cross Road (1987), Howards End (1992), Nixon (1996), Hitchcock (2012). What versatility is contained in those credits, what charm, menace, introspection, charisma. So forget any nonsense about who should have won the Oscar, and instead celebrate the man who did.
Council flat boy who left mum blushing
By Alison Boshoff
Daniel Kaluuya thanked his mother for his meteoric rise from a London council estate to his night of Oscars glory
Samuel L Jackson criticised casting of Englishman Daniel Kaluuya, pictured, playing an African-American
Thrilled Daniel Kaluuya thanked his mother for his meteoric rise from a London council estate to his night of Oscars glory.
The Judas And The Black Messiah star, 32, who was named best supporting actor, praised Damalie, who ‘gave me your factory settings so I can stand at my fullest height’.
Watching the ceremony in London, she cringed along with her daughter as he quipped during his speech: ‘My mum met my dad. They had sex … it’s amazing … I’m here! I’m so happy to be alive.’
Kaluuya was raised in a council flat in Camden, north London. He has told of being unjustly arrested as a youth and being so poor that he would snack on free ketchup sachets from fast food outlets.
He got into acting after it was suggested to his mother that he might benefit from going to classes at the Anna Scher theatre in Islington when he was nine.
His father had disappeared when he was a baby. Kaluuya, whose family has Ugandan roots, has previously talked about fights and knife crime after going to a ‘rough school’.
He wrote his first play at the age of nine, which was performed at Hampstead Theatre. He later landed roles in Skins, Black Mirror and horror film Get Out which made him a star.
On Oscars night he talked of the inspiring example of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton who he plays in Judas And The Black Messiah. Hampton was murdered in his bed by the FBI in 1969.
He said: ‘What a man! How blessed we are that we lived in a lifetime where he existed.’
Hollywood star Samuel L Jackson had criticised the casting of an Englishman as an African-American character. But Kaluuya hit back: ‘I was working class, I had to fight for this and I had to out-work everyone in order to get anywhere and anything.’
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