LONDON (AP) – The superhero villain saga â€œJokerâ€ led the race for Sundayâ€™s British Academy Film Awards, a glitzy event that has been overshadowed by criticism of the nomineesâ€™ lack of diversity.
Todd Phillipsâ€™ audience-dividing â€œJoker,â€ which charts the transformation of a frustrated stand-up comedian into Batmanâ€™s grinning nemesis, is nominated for 11 awards at Britain’s equivalent of the Oscars, including best film, best director and best actor for Joaquin Phoenix.
Director Martin Scorseseâ€™s mob epic â€œThe Irishmanâ€ and Quentin Tarantinoâ€™s homage to 1960s’ Los Angeles, â€œOnce Upon a Time … in Hollywood,â€ have 10 nominations apiece at the awards, also known as the BAFTAs.
Sam Mendes’ intimate World War I epic â€œ1917â€ had nine nominations and looked to be on an early roll, nabbing four awards once the ceremony at London’s Royal Albert Hall got underway: best British film, cinematography, sound and production design.
No women have been nominated as best director at the BAFTAs for the seventh year running, and all 20 nominees in the lead and supporting performer categories are white.
Awards organizers have said it is “disappointingâ€ that there are no performers of color among the acting nominees, who are chosen by 6,500 academy members who work in the U.K. and international film industry.
British star Cynthia Erivo, who is Oscar-nominated for her performance as abolitionist Harriet Tubman in â€œHarrietâ€ but was snubbed by Britainâ€™s Academy, declined an invitation to perform at Sundayâ€™s award ceremony in protest.
The British Academy has promised to review its voting procedures.
â€œWe’ve announced a wide-ranging review. We’re going to be looking at everything across the board in terms of the awards process,â€ said BAFTA chairwoman Pippa Harris.
â€œBut also I think it’s fair to say this is an industry-wide issue. It takes everyone to look at what they’re doing,â€ she said. “Awards are right at the end of a whole process, and so we need to look at the types of films being made, the opportunities that people are getting, how the films are being promoted. All of these things play a part.â€
Hours before the event and several miles away, at least three people were stabbed and wounded in what police called a terrorism-related attack. The alleged attacker was shot dead. The BBC canceled its plans to broadcast interviews from the red carpet on its news channel as a result.
Organizers set out to make the awards ceremony carbon neutral for the first time. The red carpet was made from recycled fibers. Instead of the goody bags of past years, guests will receive a â€œgifting walletâ€ made from recycled plastic and containing vouchers.
The post-awards dinner will feature sustainably sourced food, including a vegan option.
â€œJokerâ€ star Phoenix, a lifelong vegan, joined an animal welfare protest in London before Sundayâ€™s ceremony. He was with a group of activists who unfurled a large banner on Tower Bridge declaring “Factory farming destroys our planet. Go vegan.â€
“We are all hypocrites in some ways,â€ the actor acknowledged when asked about the film industryâ€™s substantial carbon footprint. â€œWe all struggle with what the right thing to do is and we make mistakes.
“The industry does consume a lot of power and a lot of resources, so the way to mitigate that for me is to maintain a vegan lifestylem” Phoenix said.
Stars walking the red carpet – including Al Pacino, Scarlett Johansson, Margot Robbie and Charlize Theron – were encouraged to make â€œsustainableâ€ fashion choices by wearing an outfit they already owned or renting one for the occasion.
Prince William – the British Academy’s president – and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, were the last to arrive, as the guests of honor at Sunday’s ceremony. William is due to present a BAFTA Fellowship, the academyâ€™s top honor, to Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy.
Victory at the BAFTAs is often a good predictor who will win prizes at Hollywoodâ€™s Academy Awards, being held on Feb. 9.
Best-film BAFTA contenders are â€œJoker,â€ â€œThe Irishman,â€ â€œOnce Upon a Time … in Hollywood,â€ the World War I thriller â€œ1917â€ and the Korean drama â€œParasite.â€ The directing nominees are Phillips, Scorsese, Tarantino, Mendes and Bong Joon-ho for â€œParasite.â€
Nominees for best British film – a separate category – are â€œ1917,â€ the Elton John biopic â€œRocketman,â€ the pontifical portrait â€œThe Two Popes,â€ the Ken Loach gig-economy drama â€œSorry We Missed Youâ€ and the Syria documentary â€œFor Sama.â€
The best-actor contest pits Phoenix, who has already won Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards, against Leonardo DiCaprio for â€œOnce Upon a Time … in Hollywood,â€ Adam Driver for the divorce drama â€œMarriage Story,â€ Taron Egerton for â€œRocketmanâ€ and Jonathan Pryce for â€œThe Two Popes.â€
Renee Zellweger is favored to win the best-actress trophy for her performance as Judy Garland in â€œJudy.â€ Sheâ€™s up against Jessie Buckley for the Scotland-set country-music drama â€œWild Rose,â€ Scarlett Johansson for â€œMarriage Story,â€ Saoirse Ronan for classic-novel adaptation â€œLittle Womenâ€ and Charlize Theron for the Fox News scandal story â€œBombshell.â€