Empire yields to the Force of Star Wars on awards night
Star Wars was a force to be reckoned with at this year's Jameson Empire Awards, scooping five awards including best director for J.J. Abrams.
Hosted by X Factor star David Walliams, the 21st annual Jameson Empire Awards saw Star Wars win best visual effects and best Sci-Fi/Fantasy, which were collected by C3PO himself, Anthony Daniels. John Boyega and Daisy Ridley completed the triumph for the franchise, both winning awards for best male and female newcomers.
Matt Damon scooped the main accolade of the night for best actor, which was presented to him by director Paul Greengrass, who has recently teamed back up with Damon for the fifth instalment of the high-octane thriller, Jason Bourne.
Stanley Tucci was presented the award of Empire hero by his co-actress Miranda Richardson, who is currently filming alongside him in Churchill, the biopic about Britain's most famous prime minister.
The late Alan Rickman was also honoured at the ceremony by being named this year's Empire Legend. Terri White, Empire's editor-in-chief, said the award was a "heartfelt tribute" to an actor who "touched us all with his extraordinary career".
Other winners included Peter Serafinowicz, for best comedy, Alicia Vikander as best actress for The Danish Girl, and Bond director Sam Mendes was on hand to pick up the best British film award for Spectre.
The Hallow was awarded the award for best horror, and British actor-director Paddy Considine was presented the Empire Inspiration award by his long-time collaborator and friend Shane Meadows.
Earlier in the evening, members of the Force Awakens cast proved to be the star attractions on the red carpet, as Ridley, dressed in a dark navy gown and sequin encrusted heels, Andy Serkis and Daniels paused for photographs and interviews.
Serkis, who stars as the computer-animated villain Supreme Leader Snoke, said the success of the new Star Wars trilogy rested on the vision of J.J. Abrams in "bringing back the authenticity of the original films".
"It's all about character. It's not about worlds that have lots of characters but no real heart to them. That was J.J's ambition, to really engage with the characters.
"Looking back to when I first started off in theatre, what I really enjoyed was engaging with the audience, and it's great to see that audience getting bigger in the work I've been doing.
"It's been great to work with some very skilled story-tellers and directors, and now taking that on myself, you realise it's such a big responsibility."
Asked if his character, Snoke, would be play an increasingly sinister role in Star Wars episode eight, Serkis admitted that "much more was to come".
Daniels, who is the 40-year veteran actor behind C3PO, one of Star Wars most fabled characters, said it had been "absolutely wonderful" to see the saga brought back to life by Abrams.
"It's been great fun, I've been filming today for the new film and I'm filming again tomorrow, but tonight I'm having a party, because the Empire awards are great fun," he said.
"It's great to be back in these films again, and it has brought such joy to see The Force Awakens bring so much entertainment around the world.
"The great thing about working on episode eight is that all the crew were fans from being children, so everyone is thrilled to be there - including me.
"What a gift I was given meeting George 40 years ago. Eventually we agreed to work together, and 40 years on, hear I am, still having more and more fun."
Speaking after the awards, Ms White said that it was great to see fans having their say by deciding who won the awards.
"The Jameson Empire Awards has long been a highlight for the film industry - a chance for film-makers and actors to come together and toast the previous year," she added.
"And there was much to toast! With Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Spectre, The Martian and The Revenant all taking home some serious silverware, the film world has never been more exciting than it is right now.
"Now we should probably all get a bit of sleep."