Sacha Baron Cohen punks BAFTA LA Jaguar Britannia Awards
Sacha Baron Cohen stole the show at the BAFTA Los Angeles Jaguar Britannia Awards Saturday evening at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
The outrageously fearless British comic actor of “Borat,” “Bruno” and “The Dictator” fame was this year’s recipient of the Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy.
Producer-director-writer Judd Apatow (“This is 40”) introduced a clip package of Baron Cohen’s film work.
“He is truly our Jimi Hendrix,” said Apatow. “He is a mensch and a great friend.”
Then Salma Hayek walked out accompanied by a frail, elderly woman in a wheelchair holding a Chaplin cane. Hayek explained that the woman was Grace Cullington, who as a little girl appeared with Chaplin in 1931’s “City Lights” and was the only person still alive who had worked in one of the comedian’s silent films.
Baron Cohen walked on stage and went over to the woman, who gave him the cane. Baron Cohen took the cane and started to walk around the stage imitating Chaplin. But then the cane broke and Baron Cohen fell into the woman. Before you could say whoops-a-daisy, “Cullington” and wheelchair fell off the stage headfirst onto the floor.
Initial shock and surprise gave away to gales of sustained laughter as everyone realized they had been punked.
“What a great way to go,” chortled Baron Cohen, warning her relatives: “Try and sue! She’s dead. Get over it.”
They should. The senior citizen was actually a stuntwoman, and the only Cullington from the silent era was Margaret Cullington, who had a small part in Chaplin’s “A Dog’s Life.” She died in 1925.
It was impossible to top Baron Cohen’s stunt, though the night’s other award winners provided plenty of star power.
The ever-busy Benedict Cumberbatch, currently in “The Fifth Estate” and “12 Year Years a Slave” and soon to be seen at Christmastime in “August: Osage County,” earned the Britannia Award for British Artist of the Year, which was presented to him by “12 Years” star Chiwetel Ejiofor and Alice Eve, who worked with Cumberbatch in “Star Trek: Into Darkness.”
Idris Elba of “The Wire” and “Pacific Rim” fame, as well as star of the upcoming “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” received the Britannia Humanitarian Award for his work in England for the Prince’s Trust. The organization helps young people with disadvantaged backgrounds.
Sean Penn and Mandela’s daughter Zindzi Mandela presented the actor with his honor.
Kathryn Bigelow, who with her 2009 film “The Hurt Locker” became the only female filmmaker to win the best director Oscar, was the recipient of the John Schlesinger Britannia Award for Excellence in Directing.
An emotional Ben Kingsley won the Albert R. Broccoli Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment. “Pretty overwhelming,” he said. “I’m deeply touched.”
Julia Roberts presented George Clooney with the evening’s final accolade, the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film.
The self-effacing Clooney talked about the odd jobs that he had while growing up in Kentucky. “I cut tobacco. I sold men’s suits. I sold women’s shoes ... that’s when I decided to move to Hollywood.”
Welsh comedian-actor Rob Brydon was the amiable host.
BBC America will air the awards Sunday at 9 and 11 p.m.
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