Nothing compares to the Jameson Empire Awards
What are the ingredients of a good film awards event? How about alcohol and no television? I’ve been to film award ceremonies around the world, from Filmfare and IIFA to closing night at the Cannes International Film Festival and the Oscars. But nothing compares to the Jameson Empire Awards held in London each year at the end of March.
Empire is the biggest film magazine in the world. It’s also my favorite – I love how they combine a fanboy enthusiasm for the movies (especially big studio movies) with exhaustive reportage and reviews. The winners of the Empire awards are decided by the readers – this year, the magazine got over 360,000 votes (the highest in their 19th year history). The hardware was divided among big blockbusters such as Gravity and smaller British films like Filth – James McAvoy picked up the best actor award and Emma Thompson won for best actress. Tom Cruise, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hugh Jackman were also on hand to pick up impressive but decidedly vague sounding awards such as Legend of Our Lifetime and Empire Icon.
But what could be yet another star-struck, fawning evening becomes super fun because of the inclusion of alcohol and the exclusion of television. The Empire magazine awards are sponsored by the popular Irish whisky brand, Jameson. The red carpet and the drinks start around 3.30 in the afternoon so by the time the awards kick-off around 6 pm, everyone is exceedingly cheery. The lack of television cameras makes everyone even more relaxed. The evening is peppered with four-letter words, outrageously off-color jokes and genuine intimacy.
Here are some my highlights from this year’s Jameson Empire Awards: the host, Irish actor James Nesbitt, set the tone with an opening song, which included the line: It’s only 6.30 but most of us are high as a kite. He introduced himself with: My name is Jimmy Nesbitt and I’m huge over here and called himself the ‘drinking woman’s George Clooney.’ I hugely enjoyed watching the 66-year-old Schwarzenegger giving a rousing speech about following your dreams and not listening to the ‘naysayers.’ Apparently everyone told him that a bodybuilder with an accent can’t be a Hollywood leading man. Emma Thompson gave an equally fun speech about making Saving Mr. Banks – apparently her husband refused to have sex with her through the making of the film because he found her perm hilarious. But my favorite part of the evening was James MacAvoy thanking Empire and then refusing to get off stage until everyone had knocked back the drink they were holding. Someone handed him a glass, which he proceeded to finish on stage.
It was an evening of irreverence, celebration and cinema – quite possibly the best combination for fun. I can’t wait to go back.