Daniel Day-Lewis won the best actor award at the British Academy Film Awards Sunday, cementing his place as an Oscar favorite for his role as a larger-than-life oilman in “There Will be Blood.”
Marion Cotillard of France won the best actress prize for her portrayal of songstress Edith Piaf, while the literary tearjerker “Atonement” was named best picture.
Day-Lewis, a previous Oscar winner for “My Left Foot” and a favorite to win best actor at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles in two weeks, paid tribute to this year’s strong field of nominees.
“It has been a mighty year and I am very proud to be included,” he said.
The night’s biggest surprise was the success of French-language Piaf biopic “La Vie En Rose,” which took four prizes — music, costume design, makeup and the acting award for Cotillard’s searing performance as the tragic songstress.
“Wow, wow, wow!” said a trembling, overwhelmed Cotillard. “It has been the most incredible adventure. I loved every single second of the shooting.”
Joel and Ethan Coen took the directing award for their bleak modern-day western “No Country for Old Men,” while Spanish actor Javier Bardem was named best supporting actor for his portrayal of a remorseless killer in the same film. Roger Deakins won the cinematography prize for capturing a stark Texan landscape in the film.
Tilda Swinton was named best supporting actress for legal drama “Michael Clayton.”
Swinton, who wore the evening’s most outrageous outfit — an elaborate gold-and-black John Galliano creation — said she was surprised to win.
“Proof that I’m astonished — I would never have worn this skirt,” she said.
Neophyte screenwriter Diablo Cody took the original screenplay prize for quirky teen-pregnancy comedy “Juno,” while the original screenplay award went to Ronald Harwood for “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”
The British awards — officially the Orange British Academy Film Awards but popularly known as BAFTAs — are considered an important indicator of success at the Oscars.
This year’s show was given extra prominence by the Hollywood writers’ strike that torpedoed last month’s Golden Globes gala and imperiled the Feb. 24 Academy Awards. The Oscars ceremony now looks likely to go ahead thanks to a draft agreement between the Writers Guild of America and studios that could end the strike this week.
Hundreds of fans gathered under an unseasonably warm February sun to watch stars including Anthony Hopkins, Sylvester Stallone, Keira Knightley and “Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe arrive at London’s Royal Opera House for the black-tie ceremony.
“Atonement,” which had been nominated for 14 awards, won just one other prize — production design.
“Transformers” star Shia LaBoeuf won the rising star award, decided by public vote, while Hopkins received the Academy Fellowship for outstanding contribution to the film industry.
Shane Meadows’ hard-hitting skinhead drama “This is England” took the prize for best British film.