Baftas 2014 afterparty: when stars don't collide

Which A-list celebrities were dancing, drinking and making merry after the Baftas? Er, none. At least, none that wanted to talk to the Guardian …

• The afterparties – in pictures

War journalists. Investigative journalists. Undercover journalists. There are many kinds of journalism that require a mix of flinty determination, brilliant diplomacy and a toughened soul. But there is no form of journalism that requires these skills to be deployed to such a superhuman extent as entertainment journalism. When I was living in New York, I met a journalist from the New York Times who had recently been embedded with troops in Afghanistan.

"I'm flying back out there next month. Have you got any upcoming jobs?" he asked.

"I'm going to LA to cover the Oscar parties," I replied.

"Yikes," he said, eyebrows gently lifted out of concern. "Good luck."

On Sunday night, my editors put my highly varied talents to use by sending me to cover a Baftas party. Being an old hand at covering the LA equivalents, I was sure I could do this standing on my head, sipping a caipirinha and mainlining goat's cheese crostini. I was wrong. Britain and America are no longer really separated by a common language – I even heard Ed Miliband using the word "sidewalk" on the news the other day – but they are very much distinguished by different afterparty styles.

I arrive at about 11pm at the the Weinstein Company/Pathé Bafta party in a giant and very generic hotel. In the States, guests arrive bang on time but in England, predictably, things are a bit slacker. For about 45 minutes, the only people in the enormous dining room are myself and a regiment of bossy PR women in tiny black dresses, barking into their headsets. To say the party is "atmospheric" would be an egregious libel.

Unctuous paparazzi prowl the room and are treated like gods by the PRs, who pretty much dispel any illusion that this party is to be fun, spontaneous or anything, really, other than an arena in which people say: "Right, so Uma will come in this way so you can photograph her here. And Oprah will arrive at this time so you can photograph her here …"

All around the room are low banquettes and tables laden with heavily branded vodka bottles and placecards with names including AMERICAN HUSTLE and at least two for HARVEY WEINSTEIN. The dancefloor in the middle of the room remains pitifully empty. After being gently urged by several stressed-out hotel officials not to stand too close to Weinstein's empty table, I decide to head near the entrance in case anyone ever turns up.

Maggie Gyllenhaal at the Weinstein Company/Pathé Bafta party
Maggie Gyllenhaal makes an appearance. Photograph: David M Benett/Getty Images Photograph: David M Benett/Getty Images

No sooner am I there then a great flurry of paparazzi flashbulbs outside explode. Who could this A-lister be? Oprah? Angelina? No, it's … Sadie Frost. Oh. More flashbulbs! Oh look, it's that essential ingredient of all cracking parties, Andrew Lloyd Webber. It's Sunday night, and I'm getting down with Sadie Frost and the Phantom of the Oprah. I get a drink.

It is 12.02am, Monday morning. At this point, officials hysterically start clearing away the entrance to the party: "Please clear the vestibule! Clear it!" they bellow. This brief moment of excitement is, it turns out, for the arrival of Jessie J. She walks into the room, looks at the empty dancefloor and deadening banquettes.

"Um, where's the party?" she asks me, which is probably the one sensible thing anyone will say all night.

A few metres away from me, actors Danny Huston and Dylan McDermott hover over a plate of shrimp. But by the time I finish discreetly Googling whether it is Dylan McDermott or Dermot Mulroney, they have moved off. At that point, Uma Thurman appears. She oozes a smile at producer Charles Finch and flashes a glittering smile at Dylan Dermot Mulroney.

"Ms Thurman, I'm sorry to bother you, I'm from the Guardian – " I begin, but the sentence ends there, because Thurman turns her death-ray-like stare upon me and I feel my heart turning to ice and cracking. And just like that, she moves on, smiling at someone behind me.

Aha, it's Stephen Fry, a man who, like Russell Brand, is living proof of how frequently people confuse having a big vocabulary with intellect. Surely he, Britain's most ubiquitous avuncular uncle, will talk to me.

"Oh dear no, I never speak to the press," says the man who frequently writes newspaper columns and never seems to stop talking on the internet and every single panel show on TV. I consider calling the Guinness World Records to announce my achievement in making Stephen Fry stop talking, but there is no time because Bradley Cooper has turned up with his girlfriend, Suki Waterhouse.

"Mr Cooper, do you ever get tired of going to these things?" I ask.

"What? Yes. I mean, no," replies Cooper distractedly as a PR woman strongarms him safely towards the American Hustle table. Waterhouse shimmers prettily beside him with about 15 of her friends. I can exclusively report that being a 22-year-old model girlfriend of a handsome A-list actor looks like quite a sweet deal.

Christoph Waltz and Harvey Weinstein at the Weinstein Company/Pathé Bafta party
Harvey Weinstein with Christoph Waltz. Photograph: David M Benett/Getty Images Photograph: David M Benett/Getty Images

It's all a bit mystifying. At the Oscars parties, the celebrities can't talk to the press enough. The last time I went to the Weinstein Company's party in LA, I had a half-hour conversation with Jake Gyllenhaal about London restaurants. Now I can't even get a quote from Stephen Fry. Either I'm losing my touch, London parties instil an overly defensive attitude about protecting celebrities or the press simply has a much worse reputation here. Let's go with all three.

It's now 12.30 and the room is more crowded, even though the dancefloor is still empty. It feels how I imagine a hedge fund's Christmas party feels: rich and soulless.

And speaking of wealthy, scary people, who should arrive but Weinstein himself. "Mr Weinstein, Hadley Freeman from the Guardian. What would you say are the essential ingredients of a good party?" I cry out like a drowning woman. Weinstein walks over to me and – slightly menacingly, one might say – takes my elbow.

"Hadley," he says, his voice heavy with condescension, "enjoy yourself."

The two men next to him laugh obediently. I decide to follow big Harvey's instructions. And so, with a final glimpse at the dancefloor, where Jessie J is dancing with one friend to Prince's Kiss, I take my leave and go home.


Hadley Freeman

The GuardianTramp

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