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Our stunning star Saoirse keeps on smiling as she misses out at the Baftas

Actress Saoirse Ronan couldn't repeat her success at the IFTAs after missing out on a Bafta last night.

The Carlow teenager -- turning heads on the red carpet in a stunning white, ruffled creation -- was beaten to the Best Actress award by rising star Carey Mulligan.

Sci-fi hit Avatar also failed to match its record-breaking box-office success with gongs at the Baftas last night.

Iraq war drama The Hurt Locker clinched best film over Avatar -- one of six Baftas it won including best director for Kathryn Bigelow, who is the ex-wife of Avatar film-maker James Cameron.

Cork-born actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers was also there on the night with long-term squeeze Reena Hammer.

But it was Mulligan and Colin Firth who were the stars of the night.

Firth (49) won his first Bafta for his role as a gay academic in fashion designer Tom Ford's debut film A Single Man.

The heartthrob beat US competition, including Jeff Bridges and George Clooney, while Mulligan (24) won best actress for her leading role in coming of age film An Education, despite being almost unknown a year ago.

In his acceptance speech, Firth thanked his fridge repair man, saying he was about to email the director rejecting his offer to appear in the film when the repair man turned up and gave him a chance to have a change of heart.

"I was about to send this when a man came to repair my fridge... I don't know what's best for me so I would like to thank the fridge guy," he said. "All I know is don't ever press 'send' until you have had your fridge repaired."

Mulligan, who beat Hollywood veterans like Meryl Streep in her category, shook with emotion as she got to the stage to collect best actress and thanked her family.

Like Firth, she could now be set for Oscar success as both are up for best acting gongs next month.

She said: "I really didn't expect this at all so I didn't think of anything to say. Thank you so much Bafta. I was here a year ago and I didn't imagine in a million years that this would happen."

Backstage, Mulligan had to leave the stage after saying she was about to cry.

She was storing her trophy at "my parents' living room, that's the safest place for it," because "I lose things," she said. "Not that I would ever lose a Bafta."

Mulligan was the only win for An Education, based on Lynn Barber's memoirs, which had been nominated in eight categories.

US film-maker Bigelow said it was "beyond our wildest imagination" as she became the first woman to be named best director, and dedicated the award "to never abandoning the need to find a resolution for peace".

One of the most emotional moments in the evening came when veteran actress Vanessa Redgrave received the Bafta Fellowship.

Natasha Richardson -- wife of Irish star Liam Neeson, and daughter of Redgrave (73) -- was remembered with a tribute after she died in a skiing accident last year. She was supported by her daughter Joely Richardson at the ceremony.

Dubliner Richard Baneham beat out a number of industry veterans to scoop up this year's Bafta for Best Special Visual Effects for his contribution to Avatar.

Since scooping up one of the most prestigious awards in the industry, the Ballyfermot-trained animator is now being tipped for Oscar gold.

Baneham is nominated for this year's Academy Awards in the same category, and the Baftas are often seen as an accurate indicator of who will win an Oscar.

hnews@herald.ie


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