Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Night I Got Drunk With David Hasselhoff

Tomorrow night has been rescheduled.

I’m not referring to the resurrection of ITV’s News at Ten, with Trevor McDonald cryogenically preserved in his chair still clutching his cheery “And Finally” stories. No, tomorrow tonight at ten o’clock I had been looking forward to watching Sky One’s coverage of the Golden Globes.

Jo and I are suckers for celebrity awards. She provides the fashion commentary and tells me who everyone is (I have no capacity for facial recognition, which is a bit of a hindrance for a former chatshow producer). I sound off about the movies that should have won, and then Jo puts me right. Over a bottle of red and a mound of tortilla chips, nothing could be finer.

Instead, this year’s ceremony was cancelled because of the writers' strike and replaced by a press conference. By tomorrow morning we’ll know the winners, so Jo and I will be debating the results over breakfast.

My office is piled high with DVDs because by noon tomorrow I’m supposed to vote for the BAFTA shortlist. Like many voting members, I don’t get out to the cinema as much as I should -- our local cinema in Hexham is not the most comfortable way of spending two hours. I really miss the Everyman in Hampstead, where they serve you drinks and food inside the auditorium, and you sit on plush two-seater sofas. So instead the studios send me every film to watch in the comfort of my own living room. Because they only arrive in December, and also because I can only do things against an absurd deadline, this means that for the last few weeks I’ve been watching two a night.

Normally the awards season, which begins with the Golden Globes and ends with the Oscars next month, has one or two certain winners. This year, for the first time I can recall, it’s a really tough choice.

Personally I hope Atonement wins director Joe Wright a gong if only for his six minute long single shot of Redcar transformed into Dunkirk. I want to meet Mr Wright one day to ask him about the single chorister in the bandstand who's singing the wrong words to Abide With Me (or maybe he's the only Welshman), and whether he considered going for a retake, but I do think the shot, and the film, was one of my movie highlights of the year.

But it’s up against very stiff competition like American Gangster, Michael Clayton, and No Country for Old Men. There’s talk of glory for Daniel Day Lewis for his soulless oil man in There Will Be Blood (though am I the only one who thought the film far too long and self-indulgent?) but for me the real stars this season have been the women, particularly Ellen Page in Juno, Julie Christie in Away From Her and, above all, Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose. Juno had the year's best screenplay by far, but I guess it'll be considered a little too lightweight for the big prizes.

Whoever and whatever wins tonight, I’ll miss seeing the ridiculous frocks and borrowed diamonds, the rehearsed smiles, bland interviews, and above all the terrible speeches.

I know how easy it is to get carried away in acceptance speeches. I was once up for an International Emmy in New York. I’d made a film with David Jason called The Bullion Boys which had been nominated for Best Drama. It was produced and directed by Christopher Morahan, who'd won many awards for Jewel In The Crown.

We knew we hadn’t won from the moment we arrived because my co-producer Richard Broke was in a wheelchair, and there was no ramp onto the stage: a bit of a give-away. So Chris, Richard and I spent the evening getting blind drunk, and everyone at the table cheered as I tore up my acceptance speech into little pieces.

Just as we opened our eighth bottle of champagne, I thought I heard my name being called out. Then I saw my face on the television monitors. We had won. Chris and I managed to stagger through the minefield of tables to reach the front and received the award from David Hasselhoff (a man who knows a bit about the effects of drink).

I don’t remember much about what followed except that, with every word of my acceptance speech forgotten, I launched into a diatribe against the Academy for its lack of disabled facilities for our co-producer. The result, in politically correct America, was a three-minute standing ovation, as Richard wheeled himself to the centre of the hall to share our moment of glory. I was last seen at 1am pushing him down the middle of 6th Avenue, with taxis swerving to avoid us.

I think it was probably the best moment of my life. And it shows how drunkenness and spontaneity (but mainly drunkenness) can beat a professionally written script any day. I just hope the writers' strike is over before the Oscars.

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