Wednesday, 15 February 2012

MY BAFTA EXPERIENCE PART TWO - A DAY TO REMEMBER

THE TIMELINE
6:15 am: On Sunday morning, we both awoke though the nerves had really kicked in for me as I barely slept, worrying that those camping fans queuing for the wristbands would multiply rapidly so it was clear we had to be up and ready for what would be a very long day. We stood at the bus stop waiting for the 6:39 bus to arrive, surprised at the cars going past us. You wouldn't think it was Sunday morning, but that's how mad London is, no matter what day or time it is. Once we got on the bus, we cruised through traffic without much trouble. 

6.52am: We got off at Piccadilly Circus and with still a further few minutes to walk, my dad was able to nab us a taxi to drop us off for the remaining mile. We raced around to the corner where the Theatre Royal was with the queue looking lengthy and as we crept past various people, I was becoming more anxious about whether we'd be near the very back given that the wristbands were numbered meaning that the later we'd arrive, the more far back we'd be from the barriers. Us Wirral people weren't going to come all that way just to have the local cockneys taking our spots, they only have to walk off their doorstep for goodness sake. As we went around another corner (with me coughing my guts out), it turned out we were somewhere out of the 250-300 crowd, a great sign for both of us as getting up early had proved a shrewd move. 

7.00am: So the long wait began. It was cold, but not as bad as we thought it would be. We stood behind a couple of Scandinavian girls which already indicated that traveling from the Wirral didn't matter especially when you had people from all corners of the Earth all waiting in one place to see the stars. Behind us however, we had a group of smirking lads, who practically spent their time in the queue either sounding paranoid about getting a wristband or laughing loudly. Irritating was a good word to describe them especially when you're a first time attendee of a major awards event. 

8.00 am: During that hour it amazed me while queuing that the Theatre Royal was showing Shrek: The Musical. Who would have thought that Barry from Four Lions, Kimberly Walsh from Girls Aloud and Dennis from Eastenders would appear in the same production. Madness. In the meantime, I was feeling more optimistic about the wristbands given that the queue was getting longer behind us but we were also trying to avoid being approached by a couple of pushers wanting to sneak into the line. No chance! The queue itself started getting smaller and we started surging towards our target position though it was still a case of patience. 

8.50 am: Having spent almost two hours waiting, we finally got our wristbands placed on us though my dad got one before me, he was originally reluctant to watch the red carpet but after all that queuing, you couldn't really miss out after all that. However another stumbling block came when the miserable looking security guard revealed that after all that waiting, we would have to come back to the same queue again in a couple of hours time and do more standing around. The reason being that we had to let people out of the Royal who'd been working on Shrek, and so we'd end up being placed at the barrier pens, three hours earlier than we anticipated. Patience has never been a strong suit in my family....

11.30 am: During the next couple of hours, we had less time to do our own thing instead opting to travel back to the hotel and have a nice breakfast (but my nerves came back about where we would be placed in the barriers). My Oyster card was being used a lot during all these journeys using the London transport system and eventually we were back at Piccadilly with more layers on. We strolled around the city before heading into Covent Garden where we wasted time watching some prat trying to start his performance by shouting loudly for people to come to him while parading his giant suitcase. No thanks. Eventually we were back in almost the same spot as we were four and a half hours earlier though we were at least armed with some newspapers....

12.30pm: Me and Dad continued to stand firm though I was getting a little bored and wanted to at least mingle with a couple of fellow film-fanatics. Those lads who stood behind me in the earlier queue were now in front of me but while we continued to wait, I eventually managed to chat to a trio of girls about the award contenders for ten minutes. During our discussions, people near to the front were shouting out the wristband numbers in their order, with me and Dad being in the 290-300 section. Once we ourselves were called, we skedaddled to the security men who guided us to our barrier where we would be in the second row from the front....

13.00pm: If I thought those lads behind us in the earlier queue were irritating, you can't imagine how distracting the lads in front of us were like in the barriers. More on them in a moment. Originally I was stood behind a very dandruffy middle-aged woman who was shorter than me but for some reason, I felt it easier to stand next to my dad who was a couple of bodies away from me. He himself, was stood just next to a barrier fence overlooking the disabled section but facing the wrong way when the stars would come down. We watched on as the BAFTA crew worked on getting the red carpet laid out before the star's arrivals....

14.00pm: Not much to report apart from feeling like one small move could see me lose my spot. I was glad my dad was able to stand tall without being uncomfortable with all these people around us. My irritation got to the point where a young lady stood next to me wouldn't put her big bag down which led to being push against Dad and getting me stressed out big time. The cause wasn't helped any further by these lads in front of us spending those two hours telling us of their encounters with Steven Spielberg, George Clooney and the Harry Potter cast having queued since half 4 in the afternoon on Saturday. It sounded great for them, but when you live up north, you know you'll never have that opportunity to see those big names in Birkenhead or Liverpool! One of them even had a replica Thor hammer for when the actors from that film would arrive, but it's clear these lads were mad when it came to celebrity stalking.

15.00pm: With everything all set up, our first sighting was a British chap who it turned out was the new voice actor of Miss Piggy (my sister's idol), Eric Jacobsen, who those lads in front of us recognised, would never had known in a million years. Through the half-hour mark, we finally spot two of TV's biggest names. The purring Fearne Cotton sped past more than once but I was too slow messing around with the camera quality to get a decent snap of her. Not even my official camera. I knew that blurriness would play a big part in the way I would get my photos though fortunately my dad was able to use my I-phone to try get some. Dermot O'Leary was also there as part of the E! Red Carpet coverage and eventually I claimed a first celeb pic although he was in the middle of the carpet, which would prove another awkward situation for getting good photos. Soon more film-established people arrived as Empire's Mark Hewitt and the controversial Mark Kermode made their entrances. After a long and tiring day, and with the flames finally being set up, so it begins....

16:30pm: In hectic fashion, the first major player to grace the carpet was The Help's Viola Davis who did autographs at the start just near us. Unfortunately once she was back in the middle, she sped up the carpet like Usain Bolt, and disappointingly the only picture I got was of her back (blurred as well!). Also arriving was Downton Abbey's Elizabeth McGovern but I didn't get a good angle for her though we got a better shot of a young lady signing autographs in the disabled pen. Hadn't a clue who it was until I later learnt it was the desirable Hayley Atwell from Captain America. However with the Davis disappointment I started to feel as if the whole day was going to end disastrously with me being squashed against all these people while battling to get a decent snap though fortunately my dad had my I-phone to get some pics just in case I failed. But soon my determination sky-rocketed when Davis's co-stars Octavia Spencer and the yummy Jessica Chastain arrived. I HAD to get one of Jessica especially up-close but she was originally on the other side. Octavia then arrived near to our side and I managed to get one of her close. Once her co-star left, Jessica finally walked to us and my heart pounded. She came across the front barrier signing for the people at the front but luckily for me I got great snaps of her (my dad did too). Success! Feeling all giddy as she came to me, I said "I love you Jessica", and to my delight she gave her trademark smile and a wave appreciating my kind gesture. It made my day even before Clooney, Pitt and Radcliffe were due to arrive.
 
Soon my picture-taking orgy came into focus as I got another good pic this time of British actor Tom Hiddleston, though for the first time on the night, our 'mates' in front of us were to be left bitterly disappointed as Tom ignored their Thor posters to get to the other people. They were pissed! But they weren't pissed for long as a bigger and more successful British star was to soon make his entrance in the shape of Thor's director Kenneth Branagh, a true Shakespearean actor although I did refer to him as Kenny. He seemed a charming man and again I managed to get some great pics of him too which I benefitted from the pushing behind us as I was wrisked straight into the front row and finally I was able to get more condensed pics. Another Brit arrived in Richard E. Grant, who was also near us plus Gillian Anderson was out and about too. So far so good, but the best was still to come....

  

17:15 pm: With the first surge of film stars going past us, we could hear the loud screams a few yards down from us. Someone big had arrived. It was George Clooney himself. Seeing his hair from a distance was enough to leave me ecstatic at the thought of being within feet of a Hollywood superstar. And what a display he performed as he showed friendliness and humbleness towards those wanting pics with him. He came over to us and was just as enthusiastic in signing autographs and saying hello to people in that American accent. A true star full stop. Poor Film 2012 host Claudia Winkleman only had her nose and hair to appear on my photo album, completely overshadowed by this cinematic icon. 


Following on from George were two big lads from different sides of the Atlantic, Jonah Hill who was looking much slimmer than his Superbad days and the constantly appearing James Corden, who for once didn't steal the limelight from these Hollywood people. Another duo of young and old then came by as War Horse's Jeremy Irvine turned up followed by an much older man of undeniable experience in the film industry as John Hurt of The Elephant Man showed courtesy with his gravel voice as he glad-fully signed people's autographs as well. The British storm of acting talent continued to appear as Irish actor Chris O'Dowd from Bridesmaids strolled past us soon followed by Lord Voldemort himself; Ralph Fiennes. For the first time in the pen, a swarm of fans behind us pushed through to try get his signature, leaving me fearing I would be hanging over the barrier but luckily security were able to stop the surge from getting any further. It has to be said that those guys did a terrific job of stopping over-the-top fans from getting too physical when things weren't going their own way.

  

The Bridesmaids representatives continued to show as Jon Hamm from Mad Men popped up but when I saw Kristen Wiig gliding across the middle of the carpet, I called out to her. Sadly she couldn't stop to let me take a photo but acknowledged my call to her by waving to me. That was a nice consolation anyway. New Bond girl Naomie Harris looked ravishing in her yellow dress as she came by while her future co-star Dame Judi Dench flew across the red carpet looking to get a seat but another mid-shot was decent enough. The flock of admirable actresses eventually concluded when the charming and beautiful Berenice Bejo from The Artist also showed friendliness when greeted by the crowd. So many big names yet we still had Harry Potter and Brad Pitt to come....

    
18:00pm
:
 All I can say was the final half hour was busy. The loud screams firstly came for the boy wizard himself, Daniel Radcliffe, who again flowed to people across the carpet, but like Ralph Fiennes, he attracted a lot of pushers behind us and even our mates in front cried out for him to sign for them, and things even got heated when one of the lads ridiculed a couple of security organisers about a cameraman blocking their view. Given that they'd already had pics with these celebrities before, you'd think it was the first time they had seen celebrities in front of them before after all that moaning.


Christina Ricci was a tough one to get though her dress was nice enough but another big name I wanted to get a pic of was of 'Sir' Gary Oldman who it seemed was in a rush. I did get a good mid-shot of him though we did get to see a nice moment between him and Radcliffe, hugging each other as they reunited for the first time since their Harry Potter collaborations.But it was another Potter star who I was lucky to take snaps of as Jim Broadbent was another one with a gentlemanly personality when greeting fans. He was soon followed by his director of The Damned United, Tom Hooper who of course directed last year's Oscar (and BAFTA) winning The King's Speech. How different it must have felt for him compared to the previous year? It seemed that the Best Actor contenders were to be the hardest men to get great snaps of. After the disappointment of missing a good one of Oldman, the French actor Jean Dujardin didn't stick around long (though he seemed too charming to moan about) and then Shame star (and Liverpool FC fan) Michael Fassbender raced across the carpet like Kenny Dalglish trying to avoid a difficult question about Luis Suarez. They're all the same those reds haha.

But grace and classiness would soon arrive in the shape of Tilda Swinton whose cropped blonde hair was easy to spot from a distant and she too seemed a laugh especially when she asked someone if they had a pen to sign a picture. As solid an actress she is, she was soon to be overshadowed by the remaining icons who made their red carpet bow. The third time an audience was screaming loudly came from the arrival of Brad Pitt whose long, wavy hair was a distraction for a man who'd been recognised as one of the sexiest in the world but he wasn't easy to get a shot of, as he went to different places across the carpet, not really going too near us. One particular gang of lads shouted "Brad, Brad, Brad!" repeatedly to catch his attention but he stood tall even without Angelina to support him.


 

Probably the most fed-up looking star of the night was legendary singer Tom Jones who looked knackered though that didn't seem the case later that evening when he bellowed out 'Thunderball' during the opening Bond tribute montage. Then one of the greatest actresses of all time made her entrance as Meryl Streep eased her way through the carpet, not really signing autographs but instead raising her hand in gratitude to her fans. Seemed like she was still playing Thatcher....One of her Best Actress rivals Michelle Williams, looking miles apart from her glamorous role as Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn with her short hair greeted fans in the disabled pen near us but our mates in front of us finally took their frustration out by letting out brief boos when she failed to come near them. They were a trio of miserable buggers who at least have the fortunate pleasure of living in London and seeing most of these big names. The King's Speech's two leading actors were the last to appear (for me and my dad anyway) as Colin Firth's gentlemanly manner, as he approached various fans was satisfying to see, with some great snaps of him to boot. His on-screen wife Helena Bonham Carter turned up with her real-life husband Tim Burton, perhaps the maddest couple in the industry (certainly the most bizarre dress sense anyway). Burton didn't seem too interested in writing proper signatures instead choosing to write lines but Helena was the last to stand right near us as she signed auto's, again she came across as nice and not too energetic when it came to meeting people.

18:44pm: Twelve and a half hours after waking up feeling nervous as hell, me and my dad called it a day after an experience I would never forget. It had certainly had one HELL of a day with the many stars we got to see from 3pm onwards. Nothing could disappoint me about all the photos we had taken during that time, some of them would turn out blurry, but to see those artists standing before you in the flesh, is something you can never forget and that is exactly how I felt as a monumental moment in my life. Sure we didn't see the likes of Martin Scorsese or Penelope Cruz or Russell Crowe or Hugh Jackman but that would have been a bit to greedy for us to savour. We had already seen George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Daniel Radcliffe right in front of us.... 


One day I hope to find myself within the company of these great professionals whether it be as a film writer, crew member or even actor (that is too ambitious for my standards haha). It's a long and difficult process but after this experience, it has given me the urge to work extra hard to go the full distance and allow my dreams to come true. Thank you for reading this special (and very detailed) post. It took a long time to write and I appreciate your continued reading of this blog which is just as important to me now as ever. Not sounding too cliched, but it certainly was a day I would never forget in so many ways. 

"If you've ever wondered where your dreams come from, you look around... this is where they're made."

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