Public ensure Star Wars: The Last Jedi wins big at the 2018 Empire Awards

Steven Spielberg attended, with an acceptance speech applauding #TimesUp and celebrating the magic of the movie theatre.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi was the big winner at the 2018 Rakuten TV Empire Awards last night: picking up no less than six awards, including best film, best director and best actress for Daisy Ridley.

Unlike most major film awards, the Empire nominees and winners are chosen by the public: the readers of Empire Magazine are able to vote for their favourites. As a result, the awards skew more towards blockbusters than any other major ceremony. The awards, this year sponsored by video-on-demand service Rakuten TV, who were my hosts for the evening, are the final ceremony in the film awards circuit each year.

As well as five wins for The Last Jedi, Logan’s Hugh Jackman and Dafne Keen collected awards for best actor and best female newcomer respectively. In his acceptance speech, Jackman praised his 13-year-old co-star Keen, and facetimed his wife Deborra-lee Furness live on stage.

Get Out won best screenplay and best horror, while Patty Jenkins collected the award for best sci-fi-/fantasy film for Wonder Woman. But smaller, more independent films that didn’t dominate the box office also have a shot at winning big: God’s Own Country picked up best British film and best male newcomer for its lead Josh O’Connor.

Aside from awards voted for by the public, Empire also presented four special discretionary awards/ Mark Hamill added to The Last Jedi’s hoard when he accepted the “Empire Icon” award. Director Amma Asante was presented with the “Empire Inspiration” award by Idris Elba, for her groundbreaking career (including films like Belle and A United Kingdom). Edgar Wright, a favourite director of Empire staff and readers, was presented with the “Empire Visionary” award.

And the biggest award of the night – the “Legend of Our Lifetime” award, was presented to Steven Spielberg by Simon Pegg, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to cinema. His speech touched on the meaning of the word “legend” (“I was pretty chuffed up driving from Luton to here to receive this award, thinking about “legend” and what that means. I passed this billboard for the new McDonalds Chicken Legend sandwich. And I thought all things in perspective, you know.” ) and the #TimesUp movement (“I think in 10 years we’ll look back and realise what a watershed moment we are all experiencing together. 2017 to 2018, it’s extraordinary what’s happening right now.”)

The ceremony was held at Camden’s Roundhouse, and hosted by Empire editor-in-chief Terri White and associate editor Chris Hewitt. This year marks the first year that the awards have been sponsored by Rakuten TV. Advertising itself with the slogan “Your Cinema At Home”, the platform specifically hopes to shorten the window between when a film is released in cinemas and when it becomes available to watch at home. It’s a premise that might terrify movie studios, and one that Rakuten insists will simply minimise film piracy, as it hopes to acquire blockbuster releases soon after they have appeared in cinemas. 

But love for movie theatres themselves ran high at the Empire Awards, with Steven Spielberg ending his acceptance speech with a much-applauded ode to the “magic” of the cinema:

“I’d like to conclude by just saying this: a great passion of mine, and one I think I share with a lot of other filmmakers in this room, is delivering movies that are meant to be seen on the big screen in cinemas. To be sitting together in the dark, in the community of strangers, all watching the same story while laughing together, and screaming together, and maybe crying together: that magic doesn’t happen as powerfully in the safety of home as it happens when you go out to the movies. So I hope that moment and these events never, ever fade to black.”

The full list of winners

Empire Legend of our Lifetime (presented by Rakuten TV)
• Honouree: Steven Spielberg
Empire Icon (presented by BMW)
• Honouree: Mark Hamill 
Empire Inspiration
• Honouree: Amma Asante
Emipre Visionary
• Honouree: Edgar Wright
Best Film (presented by Sky Cinema)
Winner: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
• Get Out
• Call Me By Your Name 
• Thor: Ragnarok 
• Wonder Woman 
Best Director (presented by Vue Entertainment)
• Winner: Rian Johnson – Star Wars: The Last Jedi
• Edgar Wright – Baby Driver
• Jordan Peele – Get Out
• Patty Jenkins – Wonder Woman
• Taika Waititi – Thor: Ragnarok 
Best Male Newcomer
• Winner: Josh O’Connor — God’s Own Country 
• Fionn Whitehead – Dunkirk 
• Ansel Elgort – Baby Driver
• Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out
• Timothée Chalamet – Call Me By Your Name 
Best Female Newcomer (presented by the Hilton Park Lane)
• Winner: Dafne Keen – Logan 
• Emily Beecham – Daphne 
• Florence Pugh – Lady Macbeth
• Tessa Thompson – Thor: Ragnarok
• Kelly Marie Tran – Star Wars: The Last Jedi 
Best Actress (presented by Rakuten TV)
• Winner: Daisy Ridley – Star Wars: The Last Jedi
• Gal Gadot – Wonder Woman
• Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 
• Tiffany Haddish – Girls Trip 
• Emma Watson – Beauty And The Beast 
Best Actor (presented by Rakuten TV)
• Winner: Hugh Jackman – Logan 
• John Boyega – Star Wars: The Last Jedi 
• Andy Serkis — War For The Planet Of The Apes 
• Armie Hammer – Call Me By Your Name 
• Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour 
Best Screenplay
• Winner: Get Out
• God’s Own Country
• Call Me By Your Name 
• The Death Of Stalin
• Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy (presented by Three)
• Winner: Wonder Woman
• Logan 
• Star Wars: The Last Jedi 
• Thor: Ragnarok
• Blade Runner 2049
Best British Film (presented by The Hollywood Reporter)
• Winner: God’s Own Country
• The Death Of Stalin
• Dunkirk
• The Darkest Hour
• Paddington 2
Best Horror
• Winner: Get Out 
• Mother! 
• The Autopsy Of Jane Doe 
• It
• Split
Best Documentary
• Winner: I Am Not Your Negro 
• I Called Him Morgan
• City Of Ghosts
• An Inconvenient Sequel
• Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond
Best Comedy (presented by Monkey Shoulder)
• Winner: The Death Of Stalin
• Toni Erdmann
• The Big Sick
• The Disaster Artist 
• Girls Trip
Best Thriller (presented by Absolute Radio)
• Winner: Kingsman: The Golden Circle
• Baby Driver 
• John Wick: Chapter 2 
• The Handmaiden
• Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 
Best Animated Film
• Winner: Coco
• The Lego Batman Movie
• My Life As A Courgette
• The Red Turtle
• Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie 
Best Soundtrack
• Winner: Baby Driver 
• Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2
• Logan Lucky 
• Beauty And The Beast
• Call Me By Your Name
Best Costume Design
• Winner: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
• The Greatest Showman
• The Death Of Stalin
• Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2
• Thor: Ragnarok
Best Production Design
• Winner: Baby Driver
• Dunkirk
• Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2
• Thor: Ragnarok
• Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Best Visual Effects (presented by Vue Entertainment
• Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2
• War For The Planet Of The Apes
• Thor: Ragnarok
Winner: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
• Ghost In The Shell
Best Make-Up and Hair
• Winner: Beauty And The Beast 
• Murder On The Orient Express
• The Greatest Showman
• Thor: Ragnarok
• Ghost In The Shell
Best TV Series (presented by Three)
• Winner: The Crown  
• The Handmaid’s Tale
• Big Little Lies
• Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series
• Stranger Things 2
Best Actress in a TV Series
• Winner: Nicole Kidman (Big Little Lies)
• Claire Foy (The Crown)
• Reese Witherspoon (Big Little Lies)
• Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale)
• Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things 2)

Best Actor in a TV Series
• Winner: Jason Isaacs (Star Trek: Discovery) 
• Alexander Skarsgård (Big Little Lies)
• Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series)
• Matt Smith (The Crown)
• Dan Stevens (Legion)

Anna Leszkiewicz is culture editor of the New Statesman.

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