Because we’ve been fussing and fumbling our way through the Academy Awards since day one.
The 2021 were completely different from any other Academy Award ceremony we’ve seen before thanks to – you guessed it – COVID-19. The ceremony took place on April 25 instead of its usual February date and was attended by far fewer people. Luckily, however, nominees still lined the red carpet in all their finery, and that included a whole host of British stars including Riz Ahmed, Carey Mulligan, Vanessa Kirby and more. To celebrate the home-grown talent at this year’s awards, we’ve taken a look back at some of the times British celebs were at their peak Britishness during the Oscars.
When British actors take to the stage at the Academy Awards, more often than not they bring with them a whole lot of self-effacing awkwardness mixed with a heavy helping of deadpan humour that our nation is known for. Olivia Colman’s hilarious 2019 speech is perhaps the clearest example of that – and one that saw the entire world fall head over heels in love with her – but us Brits have been fumbling over our thank you speeches pretty much since the Oscars first began in 1929.
And as it turns out, this year was no different. Take Daniel Kaluuya, for example, who attributed his win to his mum and dad having sex. “It’s amazing to be alive!” he exclaimed, while camera’s cut to his visibly confused mum and embarrassed sister. A beautifully awkward moment.
And the Britishness doesn’t just come from those who win awards. Oh no. Any Brit who gets up on stage to present an award usually can’t help floundering a bit too. Take Hugh Grant, for example, who at the 2002 ceremony – in a move straight out of Notting Hill – had to reach for his specs while reading the nominee list for Best Original Score.
Then there are the backstage parties and the Oscars events we non-celebs don’t even get to see. Cynthia Erivo, who had a particular British way of describing the luncheon she went to in 2020, comes to mind.
To celebrate the British actors who won and were nominated at the 2021 Academy Awards, take a moment to relive moments from the Oscars that are more British than Marmite, tutting in queues, or even chips and gravy.
Emerald Fennell Trying Hard Not To Cry
Emerald Fennell went on to have a very British moment of her own at the 2021 ceremony when she accepted the award for Best Original Screenplay for Promising Young Woman. During her speech, Fennell said “All I can say is — trying hard not to cry, which is difficult as an English person, who doesn’t cry, ever — this film was made by the most incredible people in the world who made it in 23 days, and they just brought their complete genius and love and humour to it.”
Journalist Amil Nizai summed the moment up perfectly on Twitter, writing: “Emerald Fennell is giving a classically British speech – self-effacing, mildly embarrassed, a nod to an American pop culture oddity and then serious turn with hint of tears.”
“Why All The Gas?”
When nominated for an award like an Oscar, you’d expect your family to go wild with excitement. But when Riz Ahmed told his cousins about his 2021 Oscar nom for Sound of Metal, they were really not that fussed.
“My cousin Adnan legit didn’t know what the Oscars were,” the actor tweeted. “[He said] ‘Why all the gas? I won best client engagement award for the financial quarter.’”
Oscar Luncheons Are Basically School Photo Days
There’s nothing more exciting for us non-celebs than finding out BTS Oscars gossip. During an appearance on the Late Late Show with James Corden last year, the two-time Oscar-nominated Cynthia Erivo revealed exactly what goes down at the private Oscar luncheons.
Eviro – who spent the lunch surrounded by nominees like Quentin Tarantino, Renée Zellweger, Charlize Theron, and Al Pacino – described it as “very surreal” and, in a thoroughly British throwback, likened it to “a photo day at school” where all the nominees have to line up to have their picture taken together at the end of the event.
Sandy Powell’s Year 11 Leavers Vibe
Speaking of school throwbacks, did anyone else find Sandy Powell’s 2020 Oscars look was pretty reminiscent of the year 11 leavers book? Powell spent the ceremony asking celebs to sign her white lapel suit, which she then auctioned off in support of The Art Fund initiative to save Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage. A genius idea with a special meaning behind it, this one was surely inspired by the end-of-year book signing where we all said we’d “stay friends 4eva even when we go to college xoxox”.
Everything About Olivia Colman’s 2019 Speech
There’s too much to cover on just how British Olivia Colman’s 2019 Oscar speech was but some highlights include her promising to give everyone she didn’t thank a massive snog, blowing a raspberry at the Academy for telling them to wrap her speech up, and telling everyone is “genuinely quite stressful” to be up on stage.
The British treasure carried this energy into her 2020 presenting gig, where she informed the audience that her Oscar win was “the best night of her husband's life ... and I’ve given birth three times.” Dead.
Dev Patel “Cringes” Watching Himself
Attending the 2017 red carpet, Patel revealed that, while he likes to focus on aspects like cinematography and the score, he often ends up “cringing” while watching himself. Classic.
Patel’s mum also makes a sweet appearance on the red carpet, with Patel holding her hand. Cuteness overload.
Steve McQueen’s Powerful Speech & His Piece Of Paper
Introduced by Brad Pitt, who described him as “indomitable”, acclaimed British director Steve McQueen started off his acceptance speech with a very sweet moment: reaching for a folded up piece of paper that he then preceded to apologise for.
What follow was one of the most powerful speeches in Oscar’s history – and one that makes you very proud to be a Brit. “Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live,” McQueen said. “This is the most important legacy of Soloman Northup. I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today.”
Helena Bonham Carter In A Union Jack Garter
Whether the rhyme was intentional or not, Helena Bonham Carter turned up to the 2011 Oscars in a Union Jack garter and was not afraid to show it off while walking down the red carpet. No one quite got to the bottom of Bonham Carter’s reasoning for wearing a British flag on her leg (some think it may have been a nod to the film she was nominated for, The King’s Speech, which tells the story of a British monarch), but the actor’s posing was pretty iconic.
Colin Firth Suppresses The Urge To Dance
Feeling that his career “just peaked” Colin Firth was his usual awkward self accepting Best Actor for his role in The King’s Speech. And while he felt like breaking out into a dance, he warned the Academy that “it would be extremely problematic” if he did so before leaving the stage.
Helen Mirren’s Purse & Earrings Akwardness
In a charming moment during the 2007 Oscars, Helen Mirren didn’t quite know what to do with her purse or her earring as she walked on stage to give her acceptance speech. Eventually figuring out how to hold them both along with her Oscar, Mirren dedicated the award to Queen Elizabeth, who she portrayed in The Queen.
“For fifty years and more, Elizabeth Windsor was maintained her dignity, her sense of duty, and her hairstyle,” Mirren said. She proceeded to hold her Oscar high, declaring “ladies and gentleman, I give you, the Queen!”
Hugh Grant Reaches For His Specs
Hugh Grant was in full Grant mode at the 2002 Oscars. Presenting the award for Best Original Score with Sandra Bullock, Grant struggles to read from the teleprompter and proceeds to slyly retrieve his glasses from his suit pocket once the nominees are being shown. Such a Will Thacker move.
Michael Caine Can’t Take A Compliment
You know how British people cannot accept a compliment no matter how brilliant they’ve been? Well, that’s kind of Michael Caine’s 2000 acceptance speech in a nutshell. After receiving the golden statue for his role in The Cinder House Rules as Best Supporting Actor, Cain said he “didn’t feel like being the winner” as the other nominees were too fantastic in his eyes to ever be losers.
Caine took the time out in his acceptance speech to highlight the performances of Michael Clarke Duncan, Tom Cruise, Jude Law, and Hayley Joel Osment. “I’m basically up here to represent you as what I hope you will all be – a survivor,” the actor said.
“I Should Only Get A Little Bit Of Him”
In her notable succinct and stoic speech, Judi Dench – much like Michael Cain – spent much of her speech speaking about how little she deserved the Oscar. Dench said she should only be able to take home “a little bit of him,” speaking about the golden statue, as she only spent eight minutes on screen in Shakespeare in Love.
Also, a quick shout out here to Robin Wiliams for the best introduction in Oscar’s history.
Emma Thompson began her 1993 acceptance speech with an iconic “good grief” – and things only got better from there. The actor to deliver some excellent deadpan quips – including one about giving back to money she was paid for the film – and to thank Anthony Hopkins (who presented her with the award) for being the “night of my life.”
Three years later, Hopkins again presented Thompson with the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for Sense and Sensibility. The actor thanked Jane Austen, mentioning that she’d recently paid her respects to the writer at Winchester Cathedral, where she also told her about how much the film earned. “I don’t know how she would react to an evening like this, but I do hope she knows how big she is in Uraguay,” she added.
“Oh, This Is Lovely”
Julie Andrews’s 1965 win for Mary Poppins was as British as it gets, with the actor describing the moment as “lovely” and bringing out some of that good old English humour. “I know you Americans are famous for your hospitality,” the actor said, “but this is really ridiculous.”
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