Cut! Voting blunder halts Bafta awards
THE famous golden masks of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts have turned a deep red hue.
Voting for the 2004 awards - generally considered as second in importance only to the Oscars - has had to be suspended after several key actors were left off the list of nominees.
To make matters worse, Bafta managed to get the sex of several foreign actors wrong, and mixed up categories for original and adapted screenplays.
It is understood that dozens of members of the prestigious academy had already cast their votes before embarrassed academy officials admitted they had blundered and ordered a stop to the poll.
The mistakes were made in a booklet delivered to 4,000 academy members which contained details of 400 films and thousands of actors considered eligible for awards.
One of the biggest omissions was Andy Serkis, Gollum in Lord of the Rings, and hotly-tipped to win the award for best supporting actor.
In much the same way Gollum vanishes when he puts on the famous ring in The Return of the King, Serkis disappeared from the list of possible winners.
Another Lord of the Rings star missing from the 48-page pamphlet is John Rhys-Davies, who plays the dwarf Gimli.
Other ‘victims’ include Ray Winstone and Philip Seymour Hoffman from the Civil War epic Cold Mountain, Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr from The Fighting Temptations, and Hope Davis, who has just won a Golden Globe nomination for American Splendour, and should also be a major contender for the Baftas.
First-round voting for the Baftas - now officially called the Orange British Academy Film Awards - was suspended on Thursday after the extent of mistakes and omissions was discovered. Bafta was hoping to resume the vote yesterday.
There were problems not just with missing candidates, but also with those on the list. Bafta mixed up original and adapted screenplays, and even got the sex of some actors wrong, suggesting Stephane Rousseau (The Barbarian Invasions) for best actress, despite being male, and Karel Roden (Bulletproof Monk) best actor, though Roden is female.
Voting began on Monday last week and was intended - for the first time - to take place almost entirely by internet. However, almost immediately one of the film companies complained about the omission of Ray Winstone.
"We double-checked the films again and more people unfortunately came to light," said Bafta PR officer Tara Davies yesterday.
Bafta insisted that in some cases it was the fault of film companies themselves. Davies said: "It’s a mixture of oversights by Bafta and oversights by the film companies for not putting people forward in the first place."
Although up to 40 actors and actresses are listed for each film, New Line put forward only four for The Return of the King, and did not include Serkis, though many industry insiders believe he is, or at least should be, a major contender for best supporting actor.
Gollum, as seen in the Lord of the Rings films, is primarily a computer-generated character. But Serkis provided the voice and a template for the movements and facial expressions. "What he did was remarkable," said one Bafta member. "He was integral to the whole process and I’ll probably vote for him in the final round of voting."
Bafta expanded New Line’s original list to 25 names, including some that even the film’s keenest fans may not recognise. "Obviously, in my opinion, Andy Serkis should have been included as well as the people put forward, so we changed that," said Davies.
Billy Boyd, the Glasgow actor who plays Pippin, was unaware of the omission of his co-stars, but said yesterday: "I’m delighted that Bafta are going to correct their lists, as it would appear that not only serious contenders are omitted, but in some cases they are also friends."
No one could accuse HBO and Fine Line of failing to promote Hope Davis for her performance as the comic-book writer’s unattractive, hypochondriac wife in American Splendour. They have taken out expensive adverts in the trade press, complete with favourable reviews.
On the mix-up over the sex of some actors, Davies said: "I’m not going to make up something: it was a mistake by Bafta."
Celia Stevenson, head of press and PR at the public film agency Scottish Screen and a Bafta member, said: "It’s funny until you start thinking about it, then you realise that actually it’s quite serious, particularly if they are missing out people who have been nominated for a Golden Globe."
The problems also raise serious questions over what would happen if one of the front-runners does not make it through to the second round of voting, possibly by a single vote, though Bafta, like the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, never reveals voting figures.
Tara Davies dismissed the possibility of a challenge from disgruntled actors or film companies "because we were alerted to the problem on the first day of voting and we suspended voting".
She added: "I know how many people had voted by that stage and it was less than one per cent of the membership."
Bafta contacted members by e-mail late on Friday, explaining the problems, and detailing 24 additions and corrections. Those who had already voted were told they could have another go.
The extra names are also being sent out by post, but the Bafta e-mail acknowledges that this new list could ironically spotlight a handful of actors. "Please note that printing this list here is in no way intended to draw significance to these films or actors other than to correct their accidental omission from the printed booklet," says the e-mail.
Members have up to 12 votes in the first round of voting, which ends on January 6 and will produce a "long leet" of 12 nominees in each category.
A second round of voting will narrow it down to five nominees next month, with a third round to decide the winners by early February. The awards are handed out on 15 February, two weeks before the Oscars.
Celia Stevenson said she would not be voting in the first round anyway, because of the problems members who live outside London have had in seeing films which are eligible for awards, but have not yet opened to the public. Numerous private screenings are set up in London, but there are comparatively few elsewhere and members have become reliant on videos and DVDs.
LIGHTS, CAMERAS, BAFTAS
THE British Academy of Film and Television Arts was born in August 1946 when Alexander Korda formed a club with a membership limited to the most eminent names in the British film world.
Out of that group emerged the British Film Academy, which 11 years later merged with the Guild of Television Producers and Directors to form the Society of Film and Television Arts. Lord Attenburgh CBE, right, is the current Academy president.
It is a membership-led organisation with a small staff running the day-to-day activities and implementing the decisions of a council elected by the members.
It is the UK’s leading organisation promoting and rewarding the best in film, television and interactive media, and is renowned for its high-profile awards ceremonies covering Film, Television, Children's and Interactive Entertainment.
There are currently over 4,000 Bafta members entitled to vote in the film awards, made up of creatives and professionals working in the film, television and interactive industries.
To be eligible to join Bafta applicants must have a minimum of three’ years professional experience in the film, television or interactive entertainment industries (or any combination of these) and must be able to demonstrate a significant professional contribution to the industry. Applicants must supply a current CV and have a referee who is a current BAFTA member familiar with their work.
Tied for the prize
ON THE other side of the Atlantic, the Oscars are decided by the 5,816 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which includes most of Hollywood's top actors, directors and other branches of the film-making process.
In each case there are several rounds of secret voting, with the Oscar ballot overseen by the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Baftas by Baker Tilly.
Voting figures are never announced, so no one ever knows whether one film or actor pipped another by a single vote or cantered home with thousands to spare.
We do know, however, that in 1969 there was a dead heat for the best actress Oscar between Katharine Hepburn, for The Lion in Winter, and Barbra Streisand, for her debut movie Funny Girl, and each got an award.
Traditionally actors are invited to join the Academy on the strength of a body of work or because they have secured an Oscar nomination. But Streisand, pictured, by then already an established Broadway star, was invited to join before her first film even opened... and presumably voted for herself.
Otherwise it seems likely Hepburn would have had the award to herself. As presenter Ingrid Bergman prepared to open the famous envelope, she was told by the scrutineers to make sure to "read everything inside it".
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