A delighted Gillan, who is from Inverness, ran on to stage in a 60s style dress and gogo boots to accept her award.
“I would like to thank everyone who took the time to vote. I can’t believe you spent actual time of your actual day!” she told the celebrity-packed crowd at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel.
However, it did not turn out to be the night predicted for another British hopeful, with Eddie Redmayne, the hotly tipped favourite to win Best Actor for his performance in The Theory of Everything, leaving empty handed.
Instead, it was another Briton, Andy Serkis, who was given the honour for his role as Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
Serkis paid tribute to his fellow nominees during his acceptance speech, saying: “Well listen, Stephen Hawking, Alan Turing, Caesar.
“Amazing performances from all those actors, but what I’m most gratified about to receive this is that there are voices out there and ears out there to notice what’s happening in filmmaking.
“Empire has always been supportive. The readers are so much more well informed than most of the film industry – it’s extraordinary.” Other big winners on the night included veteran actor Ralph Fiennes who was given the coveted Empire Legend honour.
The Grand Budapest Hotel actor was presented with his award by his Schindler’s List co-star Liam Neeson, who described his old friend as a “consummate actor, equally as comfortable on stage as on the screen.”
Fiennes thanked his “true long-time friend” Neeson before telling the crowd: “I am feeling a mixture of slight embarrassment and delight, joy and gob-smack. Thinking about what to say tonight, it was immediately clear that the ‘L’ [legend] word is best only applied to a small number of dead actors and best treated with irony.”
Proving he does not take himself too seriously, and referring to the film Maid in Manhattan, he added: “May the spirit of J-Lo, with whom I maided in Manhattan, stop me from ever taking myself too seriously, but I am serious about the work.”
Interstellar was named Best Film last night, with Christopher Nolan also taking the prize for Best Director.
Collecting his second award of the night, Nolan told the crowd: “You’ve heard far too much from me already, so I’ll just thank my brother Jonah who wrote the script and Kip Thorne who gave us the science.”
Paddington was named Best Comedy and The Imitation Game Best Thriller.
Kingsman: The Secret Service was awarded as Best British Film and English-born Welsh actor Taron Egerton was given Best Male Newcomer for his performance in Testament of Youth.
The Best Actress award went to Rosamund Pike for her performance in Gone Girl. The actress sent a video message to the ceremony saying: “I cannot believe that the one time I can’t attend an award ceremony is the one time I win.
“I’ve become so accomplished at losing, I have no idea what to say now I’ve won.”
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