Britain's big Bafta night as The Hours has the edge on Hollywood blockbusters

The British film industry was given a much-needed boost last night when Stephen Daldry's The Hours won two awards at the Baftas, the UK's answer to the Oscars, against stiff competition from big budget Hollywood blockbusters such as Chicago and Gangs of New York.

The British film industry was given a much-needed boost last night when Stephen Daldry's The Hours won two awards at the Baftas, the UK's answer to the Oscars, against stiff competition from big budget Hollywood blockbusters such as Chicago and Gangs of New York.

Nicole Kidman, who won a Golden Globe last month for her portrayal of the writer Virginia Woolf in the film, beat off competition from her co-star Meryl Streep and Renée Zellweger, star of the extravagant musical Chicago, to win the award for best actress.

Streep and Kidman had stolen the limelight together as they arrived at the ceremony in London's Leicester Square dressed in white and holding hands. But it was, in the end, the Australian actress's night. The Hours was also awarded the Anthony Asquith award for achievement in film music.

Although the film was funded by $20m (£12.5m) of US money and has an international cast, it was filmed in Britain, with an entirely British crew, a British director and a British screenwriter, by a British subsidiary of Paramount.

In an article for the Guardian last month, the film's screenwriter David Hare bemoaned the failure to credit the film as being British despite these credentials. "It is as if everyone is ready to accept the right of Americans to make films about us, but somehow they cannot conceive that mere Brits would have the equal right - or indeed the resources - to make films about them," he said.

Other Brits leading the pack included Daniel Day-Lewis, who was given the best actor award for his role in the swashbuckling epic Gangs of New York, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who took the award of best supporting actress for her portrayal of Velma Kelly in Chicago.

Zeta-Jones, whose second baby is due in six weeks, told guests: "I am very hormonal so if I cry just please take me off the stage." She thanked "my mam and dad in Swansea, South Wales - oggy, oggy, oggy, oi, oi, oi" as well as her husband Michael Douglas and her co-stars in Chicago.

She hoped her win would help to cheer up the Welsh after Saturday's rugby defeat by England. "We lost the rugby yesterday so I have to give the Welsh something to smile about," she said.

She later said taking home the Bafta meant even more to her than a win at next month's Oscars. "There's something about coming home and winning at home that you just can't beat," she said.

The predicted three-way race for gongs between Chicago, Gangs of New York and The Hours failed to materialise as other films beat them to the winners podium in several categories.

The Pianist, Roman Polanski's account of the Holocaust based on the true story of a Jewish musician who evaded capture by the Nazis, took the award for best film. The film was a profoundly personal work for Polanski, who survived the Krakow ghetto during the war, but whose mother died in a concentration camp.

Other winners included Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers, which picked up Baftas for costume design and special effects, and Pedro Almodovar for his film Talk To Her. The ceremony, which was hosted for a third year by Stephen Fry, was broadcast live to an international audience of over a billion.

The decision to switch the ceremony from April to February so that it became a precursor to the Oscars, has raised Bafta's profile. But some critics claim that the event, which used to celebrate British talent, is now little more than a giant publicity machine used by Hollywood actors and film publicists to promote their Oscar chances and coming attractions.

Bafta's inclusion of films such as Adaptation and Frida, which have not yet gone on public release in Britain but were nominated for awards this year, has added fuel to the argument that the event is increasingly becoming an extended PR exercise. The pre-eminence of American stars, films and craft talents in the nominations has also been criticised.

Answering these concerns before the ceremony yesterday, Bafta's chief executive, Amanda Berry, said: "It made sense to move to a date in the middle of the Golden Globes and the Oscars and meant that our membership were not influenced by Oscar results anymore.

"Everyone I talk to within the industry tells me how important this event is to them. The support has been phenomenal. There is huge respect for the Bafta mask and I honestly don't think the practical changes have affected British talent. If you look at the categories there are British nominees in all of them. Britain is part of an international film industry and our homegrown talent is working worldwide."

Also honoured last night was film producer Saul Zaentz, awarded the British Academy Fellowship for outstanding contribution to world cinema. Zaentz, whose first film One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest swept the Oscars board in 1975, went on to produce the original animation of Lord of The Rings and more recently Anthony Minghella's award-winning The English Patient.

He joined Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick and last year's recipient Warren Beatty.

Award winners

The Pianist

Actress in leading role
Nicole Kidman, The Hours

Actor in leading role
Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York

Supporting actress
Catherine Zeta Jones, Chicago

Supporting actor
Christopher Walken, Catch Me If You Can

Original screenplay
Talk to Her (Hable con Ella), Pedro Almodóvar

Adapted screenplay
Adaptation, Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman

Outstanding British film
The Warrior

Special achievement by a British director, screenwriter or producer in their first feature film
Asif Kapadia, director/cowriter, The Warrior

David Lean award for achievement in direction
The Pianist, Roman Polanski

Anthony Asquith Award for achievement in film music
The Hours, Philip Glass

Non-English language film
Talk to Her

Road to Perdition, Conrad L Hall

Production design
Road to Perdition, Dennis Gassner

Costume design
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers


Special visual effects
The Lord of Rings: The Two Towers

Make-up and hair

Short film
My Wrongs 8245-8249 AND 117, Mark Herbert/Chris Morris

Academy Fellowship
Saul Zaentz

Orange film of the year (voted for by the public)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers


Rebecca Allison

The GuardianTramp

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