LONDON (AP) – Many stars heeded a call to wear black to Sunday’s British Academy Film Awards, using the celebration of U.K. and international cinema to call for an end to sexual harassment, bullying and inequality across society.
Several female stars brought feminist activists and anti-violence campaigners as guests to the ceremony at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Men showed solidarity with “Time’s Up” lapel pins as tremors from abuse revelations rumble through the movie awards season.
“This is a moment in history,” Jane Lush, chairwoman of the British film academy, said as she opened the ceremony. “It should be a watershed, a catalyst for lasting change.”
Revenge comedy “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri” took the first prize of the evening, outstanding British film. The movie has a U.S. cast and setting, but a British writer-director, Martin McDonagh.
Producer Graham Broadbent said the movie about a bereaved mother seeking justice is “the story of a woman taking on the establishment and status quo.”
“It seems more timely now than we could ever have imagined,” he said.
Allegations of sexual harassment and abuse have been leveled at scores of entertainment figures since women began coming forward to accuse Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein last year.
The issue has crossed the Atlantic, where the Old Vic Theatre has been rocked by allegations against former artistic director Kevin Spacey. London police are also investigating nine claims of sexual assault by Weinstein.
“Three Billboards,” the monster fantasy “The Shape of Water” and the World War II flag-waver “Darkest Hour” are front-runners for the British prizes, considered a key indicator of likely success at Hollywood’s Oscars in two weeks’ time.
On the red carpet, Kristin Scott Thomas, a supporting actress nominee for “Darkest Hour,” praised the conversation about misconduct that has started in the entertainment industry, but said a tougher task will be “moving it from conversation to action.”
Actress Andrea Riseborough, who brought U.K. Black Pride founder Phyll Opoku-Gyimah as her guest, said she also hoped the film industry was on the road to greater diversity.
“It’s more likely we’ll see an alien onscreen than we’ll see an Asian woman at the moment, which is disgraceful,” she said.
Prince William – president of the U.K. movie academy – and the Duchess of Cambridge were guests of honor at Sunday’s ceremony, hosted by “Absolutely Fabulous” star Joanna Lumley. Kate joined in with the muted palette by wearing a dark green Jenny Packham dress with black belt.
The call to wear black put Kate in a delicate position, because the royal family is careful to avoid political statements.
Ahead of the ceremony, almost 200 British female entertainment stars called for an international movement to end sexual misconduct.
Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson, Naomie Harris, Emma Watson and Gemma Arterton were among signatories to a letter saying that 2018 should be “the year that time was up on sexual harassment and abuse.”
In a letter published in The Observer newspaper, 190 female stars called for an end to impunity for abusers and said “this movement is bigger than just a change in our industry alone.”
They announced a fund to support women and men battling workplace abuse, modeled on the “Time’s Up” movement in the U.S. Former “Harry Potter” star Watson has given the fund 1 million pounds ($1.4 million), according to its page on the Go Fund Me website. Keira Knightley and Tom Hiddleston are each listed as having given 10,000 pounds.
Nominees for best film are “The Shape of Water,” ”Darkest Hour,” ”Three Billboards,” sun-drenched romance “Call Me By Your Name” and World War II drama “Dunkirk.”
Gary Oldman is the favorite to take the best-actor trophy for his Golden Globe-winning portrayal of British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour.” He’s up against fellow Brits Daniel Day-Lewis for “Phantom Thread,” Daniel Kaluuya for “Get Out” and Jamie Bell for “Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool,” as well as American actor Timothee Chalamet for “Call Me By Your Name.”
The best-actress race is an international contest, pitting American Frances McDormand as a bereaved mother in “Three Billboards” against Britain’s Sally Hawkins for “The Shape Of Water,” Irish actress Saoirse Ronan for “Lady Bird,” U.S. star Annette Bening for “Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool” and Australia’s Margot Robbie for “I, Tonya.”
Ridley Scott, whose films include “Blade Runner,” ”Alien,” ”Thelma and Louise” and “Gladiator,” is set to receive the academy’s highest honor, the BAFTA Fellowship.
For full coverage of awards season: https://apnews.com/tag/AwardsSeason