Stars to wear statement black at BAFTA awards

The red carpet will be a sea of black as the movement against sexual misconduct takes centre stage at the British Academy Film Awards.

Royals also expected to attend Sunday ceremony but typically steer clear of political statements

A bronze alloy BAFTA mask is a symbol of the British film awards ceremony, which is expected to be a sea of black as the movement against sexual misconduct takes centre stage Sunday. ( Joel Ryan/Invision/The Associated Press)

The red carpet will be a sea of black as the movement against sexual misconduct takes centre stage at the British Academy Film Awards.

Many female stars and other guests are expected to dress in monochrome for Sunday's ceremony as a statement of solidarity with victims of sexual harassment and abuse.

Will royalty join them? The Duchess of Cambridge is due to attend the Royal Albert Hall ceremony with husband Prince William, who is president of the British movie academy.

The royal family usually steers clear of political statements, but it could be awkward for Kate to ignore the gesture and wear bright colours. In what may be a helpful precedent, she wore a black Alexander McQueen dress to last year's awards.

Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, attended the 2017 BAFTA awards at the Royal Albert Hall in London and are expected to appear again this year. William is president of Britain's film academy. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/Reuters)

The furor over sexual misconduct forms a somber backdrop to the awards, whose front-runners include monster fantasia The Shape of Water, tragicomedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and World War II flag-waver Darkest Hour. A win at the British awards, known as BAFTAs, is considered a key sign of likely success at Hollywood's Oscars two weeks later.

This awards season has been dominated by allegations of sexual harassment and abuse leveled at scores of entertainment figures since women began coming forward to accuse Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein last year.

The issue has crossed the Atlantic, where the Old Vic Theatre has been rocked by allegations against former artistic director Kevin Spacey, and London police are investigating nine claims of sexual assault by Weinstein.

This week Britain's movie academy, industry unions and bodies announced new measures to tackle bullying and harassment, including better procedures for reporting and investigating abuse, a commitment to act against bullies and abusers, and a confidential support line.

From left to right: Actors Natalie Portman, America Ferrera, and Emma Stone with former tennis player Billie Jean King dressed in black at the Golden Globe Awards Jan. 7 in Los Angeles. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

The call to wear black, backed by Emma Watson, Daisy Ridley, Keira Knightley, Emma Thompson and others, follows a similar campaign at the Golden Globes in Hollywood last month.

"I think the most important thing with all of this is speaking out and being seen to speak out," said Amanda Nevill, chief executive of the British Film Institute.

She said "wearing black is another manifestation of saying 'We don't want the world to continue as it has been. We are committed to creating change."'

Among the stars due to attend the London ceremony, typically a blend of grey skies and glamour, are Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence, Lupita Nyong'o, Kristin Scott Thomas and Octavia Spencer.

The awards have a new —and female — face this year, as Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley replaces longtime host Stephen Fry. Lumley is likely to include some pointed jibes at sexism amid her jokes.

The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro's fantastical thriller about a mute woman and a sea monster, is nominated in 12 categories, including best picture and best director. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Darkest Hour received nine nominations apiece.

Sally Hawkins and Richard Jenkins star in the Shape of Water, which has a leading number of BAFTA nominations. (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

All three are up for best film, alongside sun-drenched romance Call Me By Your Name and World War II drama Dunkirk.

In a strong awards season for British performers, Gary Oldman is the favourite to take the best-actor trophy for his Golden Globe-winning portrayal of wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. He's up against fellow Brits Daniel Day-Lewis for Phantom Thread, Daniel Kaluuya for Get Out and Jamie Bell for Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool, as well as American actor Timothee Chalamet for Call Me By Your Name.

The best-actress race is an international contest, pitting American Frances McDormand as a bereaved mother in Three Billboards against Britain's Sally Hawkins for The Shape Of Water, Irish actress Saoirse Ronan for Lady Bird, U.S. star Annette Bening for Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool and Australia's Margot Robbie for I, Tonya.

Ridley Scott, whose films include Blade RunnerAlienThelma and Louise and Gladiator, is set to receive the academy's highest honour, the BAFTA Fellowship.