The British Academy Film Awards 2014

A young blonde woman places signs with showing BAFTA nominees in the red seats at the Royal Opera House

A young blonde woman places signs with showing BAFTA nominees in the red seats at the Royal Opera HouseOrganising the seating arrangements for this years ceremony. Image via

This weekend we celebrate the 67th British Academy Film Awards. We mentioned the BAFTA’s when we took a short look at the upcoming film season in our post, Tis the season post back in December.

This year’s ceremony takes place at the Royal Opera House in London (as it has since 2008) on Sunday at 9pm. It will be broadcast in Britain on BBC One and BBC One HD and we will be liveblogging the event as it happens from 8pm. Make sure you check our liveblog and our Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with the news, award winners and any blunders as they happen (Miss Lawrence, we’re looking at you).

The films nominated for Best Film are 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Gravity and Philomena. Gravity is the most nominated film, up for a total of 11, American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave are nominated for 10 awards each.

The nominees, performers and presenters will walk down 131 yards of red carpet. Performing on the night are Tinie Tempah and Laura Mvula, who will open the awards with a performance of Heroes. Stephen Fry will be hosting the event for the ninth time.

Up for Best Actor are Christian Bale for American Hustle, Bruce Dern for Nebraska, Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a SlaveTom Hanks for Captain Phillips and Leonardo DiCaprio for Wolf of Wall Street.  It’s a well-known face that Leonardo DiCaprio has never won an Oscar. He’s also never won a Bafta and has only been nominated twice previously for The Aviator and The Departed.

For Best Actress the nominations are Amy Adams for American Hustle, Sandra Bullock for Gravity, Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine, Emma Thompson for Saving Mr Banks and Judi Dench for Philomena. Judi Dench is the most BAFTA nominated actress in Film with 15 nominations and 6 wins.

Another highly nominated actor is Woody Allen who has accumulated 24 BAFTA nominations and an impressive 10 wins throughout his career. This year he is nominated for Original Screenplay for Blue Jasmine.

Since 1971 a BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award has been presented to one outstanding achiever. The lifetime award is the highest honour bestowed by the Academy. The first winner was Alfred Hitchcock, last year it was awarded to Michael Palin. This year it will be presented to Dame Helen Mirren.

Mirren has one four previous BAFTA awards since she began acting in the 1970’s. Three of these are for her role as Jane Tennison in the ITV drama Prime Suspect and one was awarded for her role as Elizabeth II in The Queen. Elizabeth II is not the only Queen she has portrayed, Mirren has played five other Queens including Elizabeth I in The Queen and The Snow Queen in The Snow Queen.

Remember to join us from 8pm for coverage of the evening.

This week in history: 27th January – 2nd February

Philip Seymour Hoffman, a middle aged blonde man stands in a suit
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, a middle aged blonde man stands in a suit

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This post has been edited since publication in light of recent news.

This Sunday, February 2nd 2014 Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away. The 46 year-old actor was found dead in his bathroom on Sunday evening. Reports suggest that his death may be linked to taking drugs. Hoffman has talked about his drug abuse in the past, and has previously sought treatment.

Let us remember him as a brilliant actor. With more than 60 film credits to his name, including Mission Impossible III, The Master, and Capote. He has been nominated for three Academy Awards and won the Best Actor Academy Award for Capote.

Personally I loved Hoffman as ‘The Count’ in The Boat that Rocked a period comedy about a pirate radio station. More recently I’ve enjoyed his performance in The Hunger Games, I look forward to seeing him in the final two Hunger Games films.

Adam Burt has written a feature celebrating Philip Seymour Hoffman’s life.

On January 31st 1975, Walt Disney Productions sued the producers of The Life and Times of a Happy Hooker. The film follows the life of Dutch secretary then Call Girl, Madam and Memoirist, Xaviera Hollander. In one scene, while a group sex act is being performed, the Mickey Mouse March plays in the background. Walter Stratton, Disney attorney, alleged that the use of the march constitutes “substantial and irreparable, injury, loss and damage to ownership rights”. The producers lost the case.

100 years ago on February 2nd Charlie Chaplain’s first film Making a Living was released. The short stars Chaplain as a swindler who courts a wealthy young lady with a ring he conned from her admirer. Chaplain then steals his camera after he takes shots of a car crash.

This was Chaplains first film role, the start of a huge film career which made him a household name. In 1914 he appeared in a total of 36 short films, he was in just 50 further films in his acting career which spun to 1967.

Things you didn’t know about Lord of the Rings

Three posters for the Lord of the Rings trilogy side by side featuring profiles of the cast.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a series that could be considered one of the most ambitious film projects made. The production of these three films was huge with an overall budget of $280 million. All three films were shot simultaneously in New Zealand and the project took eight years to complete. The extended editions of the three films total 682 minutes (6hrs 22m), the longest being Return of the Kings with is over three hours.

A moving image of Peter Jackson in in a small rainy village at night-time, walking across screen taking a bite from a carrot =.

Peter Jackson in The Desolation of Smaug. Image via

If you’re a big Lord of the Rings fan then you may have noticed director Peter Jackson’s cameos in the films. In The Fellowship of the Ring Jackson appears in Bree, he was originally supposed to be smoking a pipe but it made him feel sick so he holds a carrot. In The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug Jackson again appears in Bree talking across screen taking a bite from a carrot, a nice reference to his cameo over a decade earlier.

In The Two Towers Jackson defends Helms Deep as a Rohan soldier. During the battle he can be seen throwing a spear at an Uruk-hai. Jackson actually has two cameos in the extended edition of The Return of the King Jackson plays one of the Corsairs of Umbar who is killed when Legolas fires a warning shot. Jackson also appears as Sam’s hands when he faces Shelob. Sean Astin was temporarily absent and Jackson stepped in so that filming wouldn’t slow down.

Jacksons son and daughter, Billy and Katie Jackson, also make appearances in the trilogy several times. Firstly as young hobbits in The Fellowship of the Ring, Billy was actually the only ‘hobbit’ not to wear a wig as he had ‘perfect hobbit hair’. The children also appear as refugee children in the caves of Helms Deep in The Two Towers, and children at Minas Tirith in The Return of the King. 

Fanghorn forest, the forest beneath the Misty Mountains where Merry and Pippin meet Treebeard and Aragorn Gimli and Legolas encounter a white wizard. In The Two Towers, Fangorn is entirely artificial, made up of miniature, CGI and a studio set. It was decided that Fangorn would not be shot on location as director Peter Jackson could not find anything suitable in New Zealand.

As part of creating the studio set, Dan Hennah (art director) and Brian Massey (greens department) would visit local botanical gardens and ask to collect their leaves, “We’d fill up all these great big woolsacks full of leaves and take them and cart them away and stash them very carefully”. Driftwood collected from beaches nearby was used as roots for the trees. Treebeard was a 14 foot tall puppet, operated by five people.

Many of the Lord of the Rings sets were actually miniatures. The Numenorian ruins in The Fellowship of the Ring, Amon Henwhich is seen at the end of the Fellowship are recycled polystyrene structures from Weathertop. Several of these ‘miniature’ sets were, although small in terms of scale, so large they became known as ‘bigatures. This name was inspired bur Barad-Dur miniature, which was 15ft tall. The bigature of Orthanc actually filled a whole car park.


This week in history: 20th – 26th January

A whole six years ago on January 22nd 2008 Heath Ledger died from an accidental overdose of prescription pills. When he passed away, the 28 year-old actor was in the prime of his career. He was in the middle of filming The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus. After some clever re-writing, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell were cast to complete Ledger’s role as a man who changed his appearance as he travelled between imaginary worlds. Depp, Law and Farrell all gave their earnings from the film to Ledger’s daughter Matilda.

The last film that Heath Ledger completed was Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight in which Ledger played Batman’s nemesis The Joker. His incredibly performance won him over thirty posthumous awards including an Oscar for best supporting actor.

On this day in 1961, Disney’s 101 Dalmatians was released. The film was a bit of a risk for the studio, their previous animated feature, Sleeping Beauty, failed to make even half of the $6 million production costs.

In light of this loss the animation team was reduced fivefold and xerography, a new, cheaper form of animation was introduced. 101 Dalmatians was the first feature film to use this technique. Xerography was a new photocopying technology which resulted in hard black outlines on the animations, a contrast to Disney’s previous soft feel. However, Disney needn’t have worried; 101 Dalmatians became the highest grossing film of 1961.

The original novel was written by Dodie Smith. Bill Peet, the writer, kept in close contact with her while screenwriting and he made a fair few changes. The Dalmatian protagonists were originally Pongo and Missus Pongo, Perdita was a stray, taken in to help wet nurse the puppies. The owners, Mr and Mrs Dearly, were originally named Roger and Anita Radcliffe. Although in the 1996 Disney live action version they are again named Roger and Anita. The changes were welcomed by Smith who felt that the Disney studios were improving on her story.

29 years on in 1990, Ava Gardner died aged 67. The pin-up actress’ biggest films included The Killers (1946) a crime drama where Gardner played Kitty Collins and On the Beach (1959) a Sci-Fi drama also starring Gregory Peck. Gardner once met J.R.R Tolkien at Oxford University in 1964, but neither knew that the other was famous.

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A look at Edith Head: costume designer

Two sketches of dresses sit either sides a black and white portrait of Edith Head
A black and white portrait of Edith Head holding two dressmakers dummies

Edith holding two dressmakers dummies. Image via

You may not know the name but you will undoubtedly have seen her work before. Edith Head was an American costume designer who worked from 1924 when she was hired as a costume sketch artist by Paramount Pictures, until her death in 1981. She is also the woman who inspired Pixar’s The Incredibles character, Edna Mode.

When Head was hired by Paramount Pictures she had no art, design or costume design experience. She was only hired because she had borrowed sketches from art school classmates which impressed the head designer so much Head was hired on the spot.

Over her long career she amounted eight Academy Awards for Best Costume Design from 35 nominations, a feat which no one else has matched. It is important to note that the first Academy Award for Best Costume Design wasn’t given until 1948, already well into Head’s career and that her eight awards are the most Oscars ever won by one woman.

Head designed for numerous actresses on over 1000 productions, creating gowns for all of Hollywood’s golden girls. Some of the most notable are; Veronica Lake, Ginger Rogers, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren, Tippi Hedren and Katharine Hepburn.

Perhaps the most outstanding work from Head are her designs in collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock. Head designed for 11 of the directors films in her later career including The Birds (1963). Head designed Tippi Hedren’s pale green skirt suit which has become an icon of the film and style of the time.

A sketch of Audrey Hepburn in an extravagant white dress

Head’s sketch of Audrey Hepburn for Roman Holiday. image via

10 years earlier, Head was also costume designer for Roman Holiday (1953), Audrey Hepburn’s breakthrough film. In the film Hepburn plays a princess tired of her boring and restricted life, she escapes her guardians and falls for an American newsman in Rome.

In the below film, Edith Head answers the question “How do you go about changing actresses appearances with their wardrobe?” by discussing the work she had done on Roman Holiday with Hepburn. Her first costume is a ‘casual, informal’ which she wears while pretending she is not a princess. Head then describes her transformation to a princess in a regal dress, of ‘real lace’ as head called ‘transformation through wardrobe’.


Although Head actually won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design in Sabrina (1954), Audrey Hepburn’s costumes were actually designed by Givenchy who was uncredited. Head was hired as costume designer for Sabrina but was then told that Hepburn was having Givenchy design all of her gowns which was quite an offence to such an established costume designer. To prevent Head from quitting the film, director Billy Wilder and Paramount Pictures gave her full screen credit for Costume Designer.

Givenchy got his own back in 1961 for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Again Givenchy designed all of Hepburn’s gowns while Head designed all of the other characters costumes (bar Patricia Neal), but Givenchy ensured that Head was only credited as ‘wardrobe supervisor’ which was an insult to a designer of her stature.

Edith Head’s packed career is one unlikely to ever be rivalled. The costume designer is immortalised in her creations which span over half a century, and adorned Hollywood more glamorous actresses for decades.