Winners for this year's 32nd annual Laurence Olivier Awards, London's equivalent of the Tonys and the UK's most prestigious stage awards, were announced last night (Sunday 9 March 2008) at a star-studded ceremony held at the Grosvenor House, Park Lane. Some gossipy titbits overheard on the night – from the ballroom and the press room - follow. See our other stories for the full list of winners and nominees, analysis, speech highlights, photos, podcast interviews and other coverage…
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With the Empire Film Awards also taking place at Grosvenor House on Sunday night, there was a real abundance of stars on the hotel’s red carpet for arrivals, which made things easier for photographers but caused difficulty elsewhere not least for TV star and Olivier presenter Denise Welch. Having wandered into the wrong room, she was met with baffled looks when she announced that she was there to present the award for Best Musical Revival. She only realised she was at the wrong ceremony entirely when she spotted Jonathan Ross and Matt Damon ahead of her.
More happily for James McAvoy, the doubling up of ceremonies meant that he could pick up his Empire Best Actor trophy for Atonement and then nip into the ballroom, Empire goodie bag in tow, to support his wife Anne Marie-Duff, who was Olivier-nominated for Saint Joan (though she lost out to Kristin Scott Thomas). He did seem to have a little trouble finding Duff’s table in the dimly lit ballroom, arriving after the ceremony began.
Unlike Whatsonstage.com’s Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, the Oliviers are not open to members of the public – a fact referred to several times by host Richard E Grant and various presenters. “We don’t even let the public come to these awards,” Grant said, though he suggested that they might be assuaged by plans to mount Match of the Day: The Musical in which they’d get to vote for “who’ll play the young Gary Lineker”.
The Football Factory star Danny Dyer, currently appearing in The Homecoming at the Almeida, was another Olivier presenter this year. The streetwise Dyer noted: “I don’t usually get invited to things like this. I haven’t got a clue why.” Dyer recently caused headlines when he launched a blistering attack on fellow British actors Orlando Bloom and James McAvoy. Rather than talent, said Dyer, they owe their success to, in Bloom’s case, a good name, and in McAvoy’s, to a “a floppy hairdo” and “period dramas”.
Did McAvoy get his own back on the night? If so, there were no witnesses. However, the similarly coiffed Dan Stevens, currently appearing in Noel Coward’s 1920s period drama The Vortex with Felicity Kendal, took the opportunity for a swipe when he announced the award for Best Set Design. He confessed to still having some “issues” to deal with concerning his own “floppy hair, which I wore tonight specially for Danny Dyer”.
The long-rumoured Broadway transfer for the Royal Court’s sell-out revival of Chekhov’s The Seagull looks back on the card for this autumn. Collecting her Best Actress trophy for the production, Kristin Scott Thomas said how much she was looking forward to reuniting with the company, including Best Actor winner Chiwetel Ejiofor (who won for Othello) in New York in September. A few I’s still need to be dotted apparently.
Opera star Lesley Garrett made her musical theatre debut in 2006 playing the Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music - and it’s whetted her appetite for more. When presenting the Best Supporting Role in a Musical trophy, Garrett hinted there may be a musical on her horizon soon: “Wouldn’t it be nice to do another one … hmm???” Indeed.
Most presenters came onstage in pairs, creating two bizarrely little-and-large contrasts: Gone with the Wind’s Darius Danesh, looking very Clark Gable-like, towered over Jersey Boys’ Franki Valli, Ryan Molloy, as did Hollywood’s Jeff Goldblum next to Albert Square’s Barbara Windsor. In the latter case, the mismatch seemed to create love at first sight. “You’re so smashing,” Windsor cooed up at Goldblum, “you make me feel like a million dollars!” To which Goldblum replied that Windsor “smells so good ... Shalamar”. Old Vic artistic director, and Goldblum’s Speed-the-Plow co-star, Kevin Spacey that Windsor had kidnapped Goldblum, a story which would no doubt thrill the tabloids.
Tamsin Greig, who last year caused uproar when she admitted to peeing with excitement (in a borrowed gown) when she won last year’s Best Actress award, caused flashbacks when she took to the stage, reassuring the audience that “this is my own dress and I’m wearing 14 pairs of pants just in case”. Greig presented this year’s award for Best Revival to Saint Joan director Marianne Elliott, who also directed her in the Much Ado About Nothing that won her last year’s Olivier. Showing her love, she couldn’t keep her hands off Elliott on stage and, later, couldn’t keep her lips off her in front of photographers in the press room (do check out the photos!).
Andrew Lloyd Webber courted controversy in the press room when he suggested that, rather than worry so much about renovating the West End’s listed Victorian theatres, we should simply get on with replacing some of them – a debate he’s raising in the House of Lords (hear more on our Oliviers podcast).
The hugely excited 35-strong The Magic Flute company entertained the industry audience far beyond their onstage performance. After spontaneously breaking into song when their Best Musical Revival prize was announced, they continued to do so – in large and small groups – throughout the evening and the venue (including on trips to the toilet – nothing like a little musical tinkling).
The whole awards night was literally overshadowed by severe weather warnings which predicted 80-mile-an-hour winds and advised Londoners to stay at home at all costs. Luckily, the Olivier guests were undeterred, battling hail and rain to attend the 2008 ceremony.
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