Actress Rebel Wilson will host the Bafta Film Awards this year, the British Academy has announced.
She will take over from Dermot O’Leary and Edith Bowman, who hosted a sparse and largely virtual ceremony last year amid lockdown restrictions.
However, the Baftas could face a headache after Hollywood’s Critics Choice Awards announced they would take place on the same day, 13 March.
Some stars will be nominated for both and so have to choose which to attend.
The Critics Choice ceremony was due to be held this month, but was delayed because of the Omicron variant of Covid.
So what can we expect from Wilson and the Baftas, and what is the current state of this year’s awards season?
Rebel Wilson is an excellent choice for the Baftas – the Australian comic actress has gone viral twice in the past after stealing the show at the ceremony while presenting individual categories.
At the 2016 ceremony, which took place on 14 February, she told Idris Elba he was making her nervous because she was “sociologically programmed to want chocolate on Valentine’s Day”, getting the biggest laugh of the night.
She received an even more rapturous response in 2020, when she told the audience she was wearing black because she had “just come from a funeral” for “the feature film Cats” – the critically-panned movie she had just appeared in.
Wilson, who has also starred in Bridesmaids, Pitch Perfect and Jojo Rabbit, will bring some Hollywood stardust to the Baftas, improve the entertainment value and hopefully provide some viral moments for the all-important YouTube and social media audience.
In an era of plummeting viewing figures for awards shows, she is an inspired choice by the British Academy and arguably straight out of the playbook of the Golden Globes – a ceremony that traditionally hired acerbic hosts to lighten the mood and make fun of the A-list nominees in attendance.
In a statement, Wilson said she was “very honoured” to be hosting and gave a flavour of what to expect on the night. By the time the ceremony comes around, she said, “Covid will no longer exist because it will clearly have been cancelled by then”.
She continued: “I don’t wanna put any pressure on this – I know I’m not going to be funny because I am no longer fat,” referring to her much publicised recent weight loss.
Critics Choice clash
It hasn’t been smooth sailing for the Baftas this week, however. Thursday’s announcement from Critics Choice organisers means the British awards body suddenly has competition on the long-planned date of its film ceremony.
This puts many potential attendees in a pickle. The Baftas host the more prestigious event, which normally attracts many of the big-name nominees and is traditionally a stronger Oscars indicator. Last year, the Bafta winners matched the Oscars in all six top categories, against the Critics Choice’s three.
But the Critics Choice ceremony has become more prominent in the awards season in recent years – and it takes place in California.
Omicron is still a big concern on both sides of the Atlantic, and it’s not hard to imagine US-based nominees choosing to attend the critics’ bash rather than getting on a flight to the UK.
Critics Choice president Joey Berlin said there was “literally no other choice” than 13 March, due to other events taking place in Los Angeles every other Sunday that month.
The TV network broadcasting the ceremony needs the Critics Choice Awards to take place on a Sunday for scheduling reasons.
“[Bafta] were really gracious,” Berlin told The Hollywood Reporter. “I put out there that we’ll host the Bafta nominees who are in LA at the Fairmont [Hotel] for breakfast, and they can be live via satellite.” The Bafta Awards are due to start eight hours before the Critics Choice Awards.
In a statement, Bafta said it understood the “unprecedented circumstances” that led to the date change, but also provided a slightly barbed response to the suggestion of winners accepting awards remotely.
“There are no changes to our current plans for an in person event for the EE British Academy Film Awards on 13 March,” a spokesman said. “We look forward to welcoming everyone to London’s Royal Albert Hall for a safe and memorable event. There are no current plans for any satellite link up.”
The Bafta nominations will be announced on 3 February.
How is the Oscars race looking?
This year’s awards season will culminate with the Oscars on 27 March, but film ceremonies are increasingly struggling to stay relevant to young audiences.
While the public generally still like seeing who wins what and who wears what, and watching viral moments from ceremonies online, fewer people now tune in to the televised awards shows themselves.
That is partly because the Oscars generally nominate films the public don’t see in large numbers. The average moviegoer is more likely to have seen blockbusters like Spider Man: No Way Home, Red Notice or James Bond’s No Time To Die than last year’s major Oscar winners like Nomadland, The Father and Minari.
Crowd-pleasing action and superhero films generally don’t show up in major categories at the Oscars – although that could change this year.
The Academy’s decision to nominate 10 films in the best picture category could give blockbusters a stronger chance.
For the last decade or so, the Academy’s top category has featured anywhere between five and 10 nominees (there were eight last year).
From this year, the governing body has ruled there must be the full 10, in an effort to make the shortlist more diverse, inclusive and, frankly, popular. That means there is more space available for a film like Spider-Man, which has gone down well with both fans and critics.
However, this year’s best picture race is currently considered a three-way battle between Jane Campion’s moody Western The Power of the Dog, starring Benedict Cumberbatch; Steven Spielberg’s remake of musical West Side Story; and Sir Kenneth Branagh’s autobiographical Belfast.
Other potential nominees include Licorice Pizza, King Richard, Coda, House of Gucci, The Tragedy of Macbeth, The Lost Daughter, Being The Ricardos, Nightmare Alley, Tick Tick… Boom! and Drive My Car.
Among the more mainstream films, Dune and Don’t Look Up could also stand a chance of a nomination when the shortlists are revealed on 8 February.
As for the ceremony, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will have noted the announcement of Rebel Wilson at the Baftas with interest as they ponder who to hire to host the Oscars.
For the past three years, the Academy Awards have not had a presenter, instead relying on a mixture of guest stars to introduce the categories.
However, it has been confirmed that this year’s ceremony will have a host, although it hasn’t yet been revealed who it will be.
Spider Man star Tom Holland and Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson have both been rumoured, and either would improve the ceremony’s chances of attracting a younger audience.