Glamour at the BAFTAs

Bedecked in a silver and white Chanel dress that appeared to have angel wings, Marion Cotillard floated down the red carpet at Sunday night's British Film and Television Awards in London. As she approached a packed pen of print journalists, autograph hounds flanking the red carpet started shouting. "Keira, Keira, we love you, Keira!" They then began singing a song about their love for Keira Knightley, the British star of "Atonement." Only when they had finished their chant were they told discreetly by one of the press handlers that this was in fact not Miss Knightley but the French star who portrayed Edith Piaf in the biopic "La Vie en Rose." The mistake was understandable; from behind both actresses have a similar stance and both were up for the Best Actress award. But it would be Cotillard who would later be going home with the BAFTA gong-and it's a certain bet that the two actresses won't be mistaken for each other again. When asked later by NEWSWEEK about the fans' mistake, Cotillard, while still clearly freaked out that she had won, nevertheless handled the case of mistaken identity with a spontaneous graciousness: "To be confused with [her] is a very big honor. I think she is stunning."

This year's BAFTAs seemed to be all about confused identity. In the run-up to the ceremony at London's Royal Opera House, stories abounded in the British press that this year the ceremony might be mistaken for the Oscars, since it looked likely that the world's most prestigious awards ceremony might not be happening due to the writers' strike. Rumors that Hollywood's A-list-Clooney, Jolie, Pitt, Roberts-might be basking in an award season glow in London had everyone aflutter. But as the evening drew closer, the glamour quotient dwindled, as it looked ever more likely that the strike was coming to an end. Good for Oscar, bad for BAFTA. There were still big-name Hollywood stars, including Kate Hudson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Orlando Bloom and Sylvester Stallone, but the dream that the world would be tuning into the alternative Oscars was not to be.

"Why is it that you guys are always comparing?" asked Kevin Spacey curtly when asked by NEWSWEEK if this year's BAFTAs were playing a more integral role in awards season. "The Oscars are what they are, the BAFTAs are what they are, and why does one have to be better than the other?" OK, never mind then. Standing near him was Jeff Goldblum, his costar in David Mamet's "Speed the Plow," currently playing at London's Old Vic, where Spacey is the creative director. The better-humored Goldblum seemed to enjoy all the hoots and hollers from the crowd, as did Daniel Radcliffe, whose mother had put concealer on his nose to cover up signs that he had a cold. "Not to talk down about the writers' strike, but it's been a real boost for the BAFTAs," said the 18-year-old "Harry Potter" star. "It's been perceived [over the years] as not as important as the Oscars, but that is not the case and this added attention has not hurt." Knightley, in a Valentino couture dress that she covered up with her boyfriend's tux jacket, said that the BAFTAs felt different from the Oscars. But when asked if the BAFTAs were perceived as more important than usual this year, she responded diplomatically: "I have no idea. You would know better." She then swanned down the press pack to fashion journalists who eagerly gossiped with her about how long it had taken her to get ready. Tilda Swinton, who later won Best Supporting Actress for her performance in "Michael Clayton," toddled over in a tight Dior gown resplendent with black feathers to pontificate about the BAFTAs. "I have to admit I have never been to the Oscars or the BAFTAs," she said, unsteady on her feet in what looked like very uncomfortable Dijon-mustard-colored shoes. "But being out here on [the red carpet], this is what it is all about. It's the vibe that we are really here for."

The good vibes carried on inside the ceremony, as well. Knightley and her costar, James McAvoy, were supposedly sending each other funny texts throughout the evening, while on stage presenter Ricky Gervais cracked off-color jokes, including one about a fellow actor who was jailed last year for having sex with a minor. "Atonement," which was up for 14 awards, ended up taking home only two, although one of them was Best Picture, which in the end is the one to win. American Diablo Cody, in a sleeveless leopard print dress that showed off her cool 1940s pin-up-girl tattoo, won for best original screenplay for the film "Juno." Cody bounded into the press conference room looking as dazed as the pregnant teenage girl in her script appears upon discovering that she is pregnant after taking a test in a convenience store toilet. "I am so completely freaked out right now," she said. "I'm sweating profusely." Daniel Day-Lewis, looking like a poet-pirate with his graying bob and gold hoop earrings, collected yet another award for his performance in "There Will Be Blood." But having his picture taken with Radcliffe was at least as important to the actor, who explained that it was the photo, not the award, that would give him street cred with his two young sons. "Are you kidding me? They are going to take me very seriously in the house when they see that photograph," he said, adding that his sons think he works in construction because he takes so much time off between films and does construction projects. During her acceptance speech, Swinton took a joking swipe at George Clooney, who had been nominated for Best Actor for "Michael Clayton," saying that her costar was not at the ceremony because "he's somewhere in his Batmobile." With the settlement of the writers' strike (good news for Oscar), he's probably looking for a place to park that Batmobile in Los Angeles before Feb. 24.