Graham Norton divided Bafta viewers with a biting opening monologue that took aim at the diversity controversy surrounding the awards.
There has been disappointment that no female directors were recognised for the seventh year in a row at the film awards, and that the actors nominated for gongs were all white.
Delivering his speech at the show on Sunday, Norton referred to the issue of “white male privilege” and had a pop at the film Joker, which led with 11 nominations.
— BAFTA (@BAFTA) February 2, 2020
He said: “Well 2019 though, what a year in film.
“I think it will be remembered as a year when white men finally broke through.
“Yeah, they did it! What am I talking about? We did it. High five, high five!
“There’s been a chat about the old white male privilege and you can sort of see why, 11 nominations for Joker, which is essentially the story of a white man who makes himself even whiter.”
Praising the movie Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, he said: “It takes a nostalgic look back at the Hollywood of 50 years ago and what we saw was a misogynistic, male-dominated industry resistant to change.
“Taking a nostalgic look back at 50 years ago…”
Starting his speech, Norton said he was “not going to be mean to anyone”, adding: “Because you might know, in my other job I’m a chat show host, which means apparently I have never seen a film I didn’t really enjoy…”
He then took a thinly veiled dig at the much-maligned film Cats, insisting he loved it and thought it was “brilliant”, and threw a couple of jabs at The Irishman, which he said went “on and on”.
Norton told the crowd that when the film was released on Netflix, director Martin Scorsese had implored people not to watch it on their phones.
“Didn’t really need to worry, I mean whose battery lasts that long?” he quipped.
The star drew laughs when he thanked the US contingent for coming all the way to the UK because “it takes ages to sail across the Atlantic”, and joked about Bafta asking attendees to make sustainable clothing choices.
“A huge thank you must be made to all our American friends for making the effort to come here tonight because I know it takes ages to sail across the Atlantic, doesn’t it? You did, didn’t you?” he said.
“Thank you for caring.
“This year Bafta have asked us to make sustainable fashion choices (old clothes). I have.
“Fun fact, this jacket is older than Florence Pugh. I’m not even joking, it really is.”
Norton went on: “And so many young nominees tonight, it’s fantastic. Not just Florence, there’s Jessie Buckley, Taron Egerton, Saoirse Ronan.
“I look at you guys and I can’t help but think, ‘Oh, if only I had been born 30 years earlier, I’d be dead now and not eaten away by bitterness and jealousy’.”
Viewers tuning in to the show were divided over Norton’s jokes, with some saying he fell “flat”.
One person posted a message on Twitter saying they had had “more laughs at a funeral”, while another said: “Norton is dying on his feet. Embarrassing.”
“Graham Norton’s jokes are falling flat as day-old lemonade,” tweeted another, while others suggested Ricky Gervais might have done a better job.
“5 minutes in and listening to Graham Norton reminds you that Ricky Gervais is the real thing,” posted one person.
“I don’t find graham norton funny and neither do any of the audience at the Royal Albert Hall,” tweeted another.
However, others were in stitches at Norton’s gags.
“Graham Norton is hilarious,” tweeted one fan, while another said: “Graham Norton is such a good choice to host the #BAFTAs.”
Another said the star’s monologue was “very funny”.
The ceremony took place at the Royal Albert Hall.