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While some categories lack diversity, this year’s Bafta awards, hosted by Joanna Lumley, will celebrate varied talents and strong female performances

The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro’s strange and thrilling fantasy epic about a woman who falls in love with a sea monster, will lead the charge at this year’s Bafta film awards with 12 nominations.

With multiple nominations in the craft categories the film easily topped the 2018 list, followed by Martin McDonagh’s black comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and the Gary Oldman-starring Churchill biopic Darkest Hour. Each received nine nominations.

The nominations were announced at Bafta’s central London headquarters where Joanna Lumley was also revealed as the ceremony’s new host, replacing Stephen Fry.

Lumley said she was thrilled but acknowledged that getting the tone of the ceremony right, as the sexual harassment scandal continues, could be tricky.

 

“My job will be to let other people set the tone. If they want to wear black, they will wear black, if they want to speak about abuse within the film industry, they can. If they want to celebrate film or talk about a particular role … how thrilling, how marvellous.

“We want people to feel proud to be there, happy to be there, thrilled to hear what is said.”

Lumley, an actor for five decades, said she had no personal stories to tell, “but I can’t tell you the admiration I have for the people who have stood up and the heartbreak for people who felt there was nobody to turn to.”

Bafta chief executive Amanda Berry said she was expecting the Bafta ceremony, in four weeks’ time, to follow the lines of last weekend’s Golden Globes, an evening of powerful speeches and attendees wearing black.

They are also prepared for the unexpected. “Everything is moving so quickly,” said Berry. “Everyone wearing black [only] started as a rumour a couple of weeks ago.

“What was particularly moving for me [at the Globes] was how thoughtful the statements were … this is about making change and all working together to ensure that change happens.”

The list does have diversity issues. The five people nominated in the best director category – Del Toro, Luca Guadagnino, Denis Villeneuve, Christopher Nolan and Martin McDonagh – are all white men. All five contenders in the best film category are directed by men.

Berry acknowledged that but pointed to five female directors nominated in other categories including Lucy Cohen (Kingdom of Us) and Rungano Nyoni (I Am Not a Witch) in the outstanding debut section. Bafta’s new talent schemes were also bringing on more diverse talent, she said, “the change is definitely happening.”

It can also be said that many of the nominated films have strong female characters and performances, not least Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri with Frances McDormand dominant as a mother furious at the inability of local police to find her daughter’s murderer.

“She takes no prisoners, she’s got a strength that I’m not sure any male character this year has had,” said McDonagh. “All I can do is take care of the artistic side of things and it is great to be putting out a film like this with such a strong female presence.”

McDormand faces competition for best actress from Annette Bening, Margot Robbie, Saoirse Ronan and Sally Hawkins, for The Shape of Water.

Hawkins said she was humbled by the nomination. “It feels like a gift from my homeland and I am very touched by it,” she said. “This film, the story, its characters and the great people that were involved in bringing it to the world are unique and very precious to me.”

The film’s director Guillermo del Toro said he was moved by the 12 Bafta nominations. “They mean a lot.” The Mexican film-maker said he hoped his movie was one for our times. “This idea that we need to fear the ‘other’ … I wanted to articulate a fable of acceptance and love towards the other in its many forms and many shapes. Ideology divides us, so let art and storytelling unite us.”

Berry said the nominations list contained a wealth of both established talent and newcomers, such as in the best actor category where Gary Oldman and Daniel Day-Lewis, for what he says is his last ever film, are nominated. They are up against Jamie Bell and two actors who also feature in the rising star category: Timothée Chalamet and Daniel Kaluuya.

Oldman’s astonishing portrayal of Churchill has made him hot favourite to win what would be his first Bafta after losing out twice before for previous roles as Joe Orton and George Smiley.

Eric Fellner, one of Darkest Hour’s producers, said he was “thrilled and relieved” at the film’s nine nominations. He said there was no Brexit or Trump when they decided to make the film but the new politics did give the film an extra layer.

“It seems to resonate on both sides of the aisle. It isn’t being picked up by one side of the political divide – it is people in general yearning for leadership. That includes politicians who have seen it.”

The 2018 list includes genres not known for success at film awards generally. Blade Runner 2049, for example, received eight nominations while Paddington 2 received three, including for best British film and best supporting actor for Hugh Grant, playing a bitter, narcissistic actor.

That category also includes Christopher Plummer for perhaps the most newsworthy movie performance of the year after he replaced the disgraced Kevin Spacey as J Paul Getty in Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World.

Two films overlooked at the Golden Globes feature in the Bafta nominations with I, Tonya, the biopic of disgraced ice skater Tonya Harding, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s fashion drama Phantom Thread each receiving five nominations.

To some surprise there will be no Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep or Tom Hanks at the Baftas as their Pentagon Papers drama, The Post, failed to win a single nomination.

This year’s ceremony will take place on Sunday 18 February at the Royal Albert Hall, London.

Credit: The Guardian