“Lord of the Rings” tops U.K. awards

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts bestowed its top honors Sunday on Peter Jackson‘s fantasy epic Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, which took home five BAFTA awards, including best film and best director for Jackson.

Russell Crowe picked up the best actor award for his turn as the schizophrenic John Nash in A Beautiful Mind, while Dame Judi Dench beat out tough competitor Sissy Spacek to win the best actress award for her performance as Iris Murdoch in Iris.

“We had the most wonderful time doing (the film) contrary to what you might see on screen,” a deeply moved Dench told the audience.

Other big winners included Jim Broadbent, who won best supporting actor for his outrageous club owner in Moulin Rouge. Broadbent credited director Baz Luhrmann as being “a complete visionary genius…The world would be a duller place without Moulin Rouge.”

Also as expected, Jennifer Connelly took home the best supporting actress award for her turn as Nash’s wife in A Beautiful Mind.

The Academy Fellowship, BAFTA’s highest honor, was awarded to actor-director-producer Warren Beatty, who told the audience that he made his first film in England in 1961–when his wife, actress Annette Bening, was 3.

Although the gala event at the Odeon Leicester Square cinema in London was rather soggy from the rain, the stars came out in full force–due to the fact that BAFTA moved the date of its awards show before the Academy Awards, making BAFTA a must on the pre-Oscar circuit. On hand to present the awards were Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman and Halle Berry.

BAFTA is considered Britain’s leading organization for film, television and interactive entertainment. It officially changed the name of its awards ceremony to the Orange British Academy Film Awards in 2000, for its leading sponsor, Orange mobile phone company.