Last night HeyUGuys had the pleasure of attending the 31st London Critics’ Circle Film Awards.  Hosted at the BFI Southbank, it was a great evening, featuring talented names aplenty all supping from complimentary miniature bottles of Moët served up classily with bendy straws.

It might not have the same profile as this weekend’s BAFTA ceremony, but with its awards voted for by more than 120 members of the London Circle – including critics, broadcasters and writers – it’s certainly not an event to be ignored. And with this article, accompanied by our own personal photographs from the occasion (click any image to enlarge), you can feel like you were there.

First to arrive on the red carpet were Lesley Manville, who would pick up British Actress of the Year for her performance in Mike Leigh’s Another Year, and actor Thomas Turgoose, nominated for Young British Performer of the Year for his part in The Scouting Book For Boys. Though it turned out that Turgoose was to miss out on this occasion (the award going to Conor McCarron for his role in NEDs), he was more than happy to discuss his upcoming work with us.

Known for his collaborations with director Shane Meadows, we inquired as to whether Thomas had any news on the latest This Is England sequel, this time set in 1988. “It’s like a Christmas special,” the actor revealed, giving a nice hint at when we can expect to see it on air, “But I’m not allowed to say what happens in it! Literally only about seven people have the script at the moment, but I think you can expect some surprises. In fact, you should definitely expect some pretty major surprises. It’s going to do well, I think.” What a tease!

But with all Turgoose’s projects to date being set in familiar English territory, would the actor ever consider the move across the pond? “No, definitely not. Well, to be fair, I guess I’d consider it if it was a good offer, but I still live in Grimsby at the moment – I’ve never been to America. I won an award at Tribeca once, Robert De Niro’s festival, but I had to do my maths exam!”

Shortly after Thomas left us, a wave of excitement rippled through the autograph hunters on the other side of the carpet. “Danny!”, the shouts came, “Danny who?”, we wondered, flicking through our list of attendees. Turning around, it soon became apparent than one certain Mr Danny Boyle (nominated for British Director of the Year for 127 Hours) had apparently sneaked into the ceremony unannounced, using a back entrance and avoiding the pomp of the red carpet. Dressed casually in jeans and a zip-up jumper, he posed for some publicity shots with a bottle of Moët before making his way back inside.

Next to come our way was Gareth Unwin, co-producer of The King’s Speech.  Speaking about the film, he had nothing but praise for how his colleagues approached the screenplay. “We always knew the script had humour,” Unwin explained, “but it wasn’t until Colin and Geoffrey started vibing off each other on set that we realised we had this kind of comedy bromance in the making.  If you watch the film, I think there’s this wonderful ebb and flow between high drama and real humour, which Tom Hooper manages wonderfully.”

The film’s screenwriter David Seidler followed soon after and expressed how grateful he’d been to hear about those audience’s that burst into spontaneous applause at the end of their screenings. “When it started happening in America, at the film festivals, I was really blown away by it,” he shared. “And when we were at Toronto and two thousand people stood as one and applauded, I completely lost it. I disgraced myself – tears rolling down my face – and then they put a spotlight on me!” Clearly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of praise the film has been drawing, Seidler added; “I keep on looking over my shoulder waiting to see the guy who really wrote it! I’m waiting for the alarm clock to go off and to realise that it’s all been a dream.”

When asked about the current situation regarding the film’s American certificate battle, the writer responded that “the film would have to be re-cut anyway eventually for aeroplane use and for television, so that was always going to happen.” Speaking honestly, Seidler added that he thought that “the possible error of judgement was to talk about it before the Oscars, amongst the general public. Harvey Weinstein’s a very bright man, he loves film and he’s a great marketer, but I think announcing it this early was not one of his best ideas.”

With Colin Firth being whisked past before we got a chance to lunge in with any questions about the upcoming Gambit remake, the only thing we did manage to overhear at this point was the Sunday Mirror attempting to grab an exclusive scoop of Colin’s favourite party trick. “I don’t have any party tricks, I’m afraid. I’ll have to get back to you on that one!” Drat. Though after winning his award, the star did later reveal to the News of the World that he’d been having a little jam on his guitar just the day before. Asked whether he’d ever like to set up his own band, Firth grinned as he replied; “Who says I haven’t?” King George VI rocking a six string? You heard it here first! And there’ll be more from Mr Firth later on.

Incidentally, Mrs Firth – better known as Livia Giuggioli – dazzled many of the press with an eye-cathing Henrietta Ludgate structured dress and multicoloured heels. For pictures, see the gallery at the end of this article.

With Aaron Sorkin also slipping through our fingers on the red carpet (don’t worry, we got a hold of him later on), it was time to head inside to the Winner’s Room, where we were visited by the successful gong collectors after they had received their awards.

Among the first to join us was Olivia Williams, picking up the award for British Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in The Ghost. Williams had no trouble relating what had first drawn her to the project. “Well, there’s the obvious attraction of being married to Pierce Brosnan and shagging Ewan McGregor,” the actress quipped, much to the delighted agreement of the female attendees, “but there’s also the attraction of getting to work with the greatest living auteur, possibly the greatest ever auteur, Roman Polanski. I’m still looking for the down side.”

Sharing her experience of Polanski’s directorial style, Williams suggested that the director was frank, but fair. “He tells you what he wants you to do and if you don’t do it right then you go back and do it again. But he’s always right, so if you don’t do what he tells you, you’re a fool. He’s the master of suspense and it was an honour to work with him.”

Speaking to us after receiving her award for British Actress of the Year for her part in Mike Leigh’s Another Year, Lesley Manville paid tribute to to the other actresses in the film, including Ruth Sheen who she was nominated against. “There have been some great parts for women this year,” Manville told us, “and especially women over 40, which I think is a good move.”

Relating her fondness for Leigh, whom the actress has worked with on six occasions, Manville said; “he’s great director. The work you do with him so collaborative. You really do get asked to work with him and create the characters from scratch. With Another Year, I think he’s made a great film about the human condition and how difficult it is for all of us to try and form those relationships that can last throughout a lifetime.”

Next came the return of the man of the moment, Colin Firth, fresh from receiving his prize for Actor of the Year.  It is the second year in a row that Firth has won the award having won last year for his role in A Single Man. Speaking in a similar vein to screenwriter David Seidler, Firth suggested the response to the film had been humbling, explaining that “to hear that people are actually standing up or clapping or expressing a personal response is probably as good as it gets.”

Going on to praise the validity not only of the Critics’ Circle, but every audience, Firth commented that “films like this depend entirely on what people say about them. They don’t depend on the money because there wasn’t much, they don’t depend on a big studio machine or a big financial apparatus.” Asked about reports that the Queen has both watched and enjoyed the film, he said that “it means a very great deal to me if that is the case.”

But despite the success of The King’s Speech, it was The Social Network that came out on top, winning Film of the Year. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin was on hand to claim all four of the film’s awards – including his own for Screenwriter of the Year. “Andrew [Garfield] won tonight, David Fincher won tonight,” Sorkin summarised, “but of course the one we’re most proud of is the one we all won together.”

The key to the film’s success, Sorkin suggested, is the number of ways it can be interpreted. “I think if you line up ten people and ask them what they just saw after seeing The Social Network, you’re going to get ten different answers,” he said, “One of those answers is going to be that old media was sticking it to new media. Now, that certainly wasn’t my intention, but I don’t think it’s any less valid to take away than any of the other nine.”

When we asked him if he ever felt weary during the writing process as to how audience’s would take to a project about the founding of Facebook, Sorkin gave us an insight into his process. “I try to write what I like, what my friends would like and what I think my father would like. After that you keep your fingers crossed,” he explained. “I think if you try to write for what you think everybody’s going to like, that’s a good recipe for a bad movie.” Not wishing to take all the credit, however, Sorkin suggested that there were still “about a hundred different ways to make this movie badly. David [Fincher] managed to avoid every cliché.”

But before Mr Sorkin left, we seized the opportunity to try and wangle any exclusive news we could about his upcoming HBO series, which is set to portray the goings on of a cable news network.  “It’s coming along well,” he shared, “I’ve written the pilot and we’re at the beginning of casting now.” The title? “More As The Story Develops.” And until we find out more, it seems very apt.

So, there you have it – the London Critics’ Circle Film Awards – done and dusted for another year! Click here to read a full list of the night’s nominees/winners and please feel free to look at the remainder of the night’s photos in the gallery below, including appearances by Will Poulter, Dexter Fletcher and winner of the Outstanding Contribution to Film award, Kristin Scott Thomas.

See you next year!