(I first wrote this piece for the Guardian.I’ve updated it slightly. Rehna)
“And who are you wearing?”
“Thermals and a parka. It’s a bit nippy.” OK, I’m not banking on that answer from the fragrant Amy Adams at a Baftas red carpet but I’m willing to put a fiver on Tilda Swinton doing me proud one year.
Tilda’s sartorial elegance – channelling her inner David Bowie at the 2012 Golden Globes, and wearing what appeared to be two knotted sheets at the 2008 Oscars – is surely wasted on the American awards where they take everything so seriously. The Baftas are more her natural home. Over the years I’ve seen many a guest sashay up the London red carpet having ingeniously doubled the family tablecloth or curtains as a party frock.
It’s not that the Baftas can’t do glamour. It’s how glamour is so often juxtaposed with the downright clunky that gives the show its unique character.
It used to be held in April, to hand out consolation prizes to Brits who had lost out at the Oscars the previous month. but after a major makeover, the new February date now makes it an important landmark on the road to the holy grail of film awards, the naked gold man called Oscar.
The ceremony now attracts the cream of the movie crop. You can spot a Cate Blanchett here, a Nicole and Clooney there, even Brad Pitt. And for a moment you can imagine you’re in Tinseltown itself – except for that kebab shop in the background. Happily, even the kebab and pizza place backdrop disappeared since 2009 in favour of the Royal Opera House and this year the beautiful Royal Albert hall. But there’s still the weather.
Cannes may have the aquamarine sea and beaches, Los Angeles the star wattage and sunshine – but only Bafta serves up a selection of sleet, snow and rain of biblical proportions. Who can forget the year when the red carpet vomited up soap suds that ruined the hem of many a starlet’s designer gown. Those of us who suffered near hypothermia in the press pen certainly won’t. One minute we were interviewing Kate Winslet face-to-face, the next, the Titanic star shrank before our very eyes as her heels were sucked under by the soggy marsh beneath her feet.
Then there are the waiting fans. Unlike the reverential American and European crowds in awe of the “talent”, British fans have their priorities right. “Oi, Scorsese! Get your arse over ‘ere, mate, I haven’t got all day,” is the cleaned up version of one cry I heard. The director quickly got his rear over to the admirer.
It’s tough to do the Bafta red carpet walk as an unknown. You move quickly, looking neither right nor left so as to avoid the envious but frankly murderous faces of those demanding to know why, you, a NOBODY, are obscuring their view of the cookie-cutter, bottle blonde from a dire romcom whose name they can’t remember but, damn it, she’s been on screen and is therefore a somebody. It doesn’t always happen that way of course: one year the crowd behind me cooed like demented pigeons at the sight of Trinny and Susannah but remained stone cold silent when a blonde woman walked past, before loudly demanding, “who’s she then?”
It was Meryl Streep.
The fans at least may have had an excuse. They only came to scream for “Braaaaaaad”. My colleagues in the press box don’t have any.
Journalist: Michael, why did you look so skinny in Hunger?’
Silence. Then, Fassbender: “I was playing Bobby Sands.”
These are the moments that make the hypothermia worthwhile. Bafta may have its head in the movie clouds, but its red carpet is firmly on the icy ground.
My only gripe with the Baftas is that no one blubs when they win. It’s just not British. Personally, I love a good meltdown at the Oscars. It livens an interminable evening no end. It should actually be mandatory for at least one winner to have to be carried out on a stretcher, overcome as they are by the emotion of finally getting their manicured mitts on the golden baldie. If you can’t get hysterical at the Oscars, where can you?
Then again, if a Bafta winner wept, you’d probably see snot. So I’ll pass.