LONDON – Silent movie “The Artist” had a night to shout about Sunday, winning seven prizes including best picture at the British Academy Film Awards.
Britain’s equivalent of the Oscars rewarded the French homage to old Hollywood over a homegrown favorite, espionage thriller “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”
“The Artist,” a black-and-white picture that has charmed audiences around the world since its Cannes debut in May, was named best film, and its rubber-limbed star Jean Dujardin took the male acting prize. Its filmmaker, Michel Hazanavicius, won prizes for directing and his original screenplay.
Hazanavicius thanked presenter Brad Pitt for pronouncing his name correctly – and academy voters for recognizing that his silent film even had a screenplay.
“So many people thought there was no script because there was no dialogue,” he said.
Another homage to early cinema, Martin Scorsese’s Parisian fantasy “Hugo,” took prizes for sound and production design.
The British prizes, known as BAFTAs, are considered a strong indicator of likely success at Hollywood’s Academy Awards, to be held on Feb. 26.
Dujardin, who plays a silent screen icon eclipsed by the talkies, said the appeal of “The Artist” lay in its accessibility.
“It’s a simple story,” he said. “It’s a love story. It’s universal. And there’s a cute dog” – Jack Russell terrier Uggie, who almost steals the film from his two-legged co-stars. “The Artist” also won prizes for cinematography, costume design and for Ludovic Bource’s sprightly musical score.
As predicted, Meryl Streep was named best actress for her depiction of Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first female prime minister, in “The Iron Lady.” The film also won a prize for hair and makeup.
The supporting actor prize went to Christopher Plummer, as an academic who makes a new start late in life in “Beginners.” Octavia Spencer was named best supporting actress for her turn as a fiery maid in “The Help.”