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Kathleen Kennedy- Winner's Acceptance Speech, Fellowship Award, EE British Academy Film Awards in 2020

2 February 2020

Winner's acceptance speech by Kathleen Kennedy in the Fellowship Award category

HRH PRINCE WILLIAM:  Good evening, everybody.  Catherine and I are once again really, really delighted to join you all this evening.

Tonight we celebrate another year of exceptional filmmaking, and I'm thrilled that all those involved have been recognised.

I'm particularly proud to stand here tonight having served as BAFTA's president for the last ten years.  However, I must admit, I don't know whether I should be proud or slightly alarmed about the number of winners over the last decade who have portrayed members of my own family.

Both here in the UK and in many other countries across the world, we are lucky to have incredible filmmakers, actors, producers, directors and technicians, men and women from all backgrounds and ethnicities, enriching our lives through film.

Yet, in 2020, and not for the first time in the last few years, we find ourselves talking again about the need to do more to ensure diversity in the sector and in the awards process.  That simply cannot be right in this day and age.

I know that both Pippa, chair of BAFTA, and Amanda, BAFTA's CEO, share that frustration, and continue to work tirelessly to ensure that creative talent is discovered and supported.

BAFTA take this issue seriously and, following this year's nominations, have launched a full and thorough review of the entire awards process, to build on their existing work and ensure that opportunities are available to everyone.

Now back to the awards themselves.  

One of the great privileges I have as president is to present the fellowship, the highest honour the Academy can bestow.  This year the award goes to a simply legendary figure in film, someone whose films I have been watching all my life and continue to watch time and time again.  I couldn't be happier she's receiving this award.

To tell you more about her remarkable career, please welcome Daisy Ridley and John Boyega.

DAISY RIDLEY:  With over 70 feature films to her name, and an impressive career spanning over 40 years, Kathleen Kennedy has been described as an inspiration, a trailblazer and a visionary.  Her work has produced some of the most iconic, cherished and celebrated films of the last three decades, enriching the cinema-going experience.  

JOHN BOYEGA:  Kathleen has been the recipient of numerous awards along the way, both personally and for the films she lovingly produces.  Many of her productions have been shot here in the UK, and she has referred to the UK as a second home -- Kathy, you didn't tell me that.

It was on one of those wonderful films that I was fortunate enough to meet Kathleen, and which we began a big journey which included three films, and I also met Daisy and got to experience first-hand the sense of belonging at Star Wars, playing FN2187, who was a stormtrooper who -- I thought I was supposed to go through the whole narrative?  No?

DAISY RIDLEY:  Kathleen is setting a precedent, both to those around her -- over half her team at Lucasfilm are female -- and on a global scale.  Playing the multidimensional heroine, Rey, in Star Wars has been incredible.  Kathleen helped create a role which has been instrumental in embracing inclusivity in film.

JOHN BOYEGA:  She has worked with many legendary directors, and here is one of her long-time collaborators to say a few words.

STEVEN SPIELBERG:  Hi Kath, and congrats on your BAFTA fellowship.  I know how this was for me to join the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Elizabeth Taylor, Judi Dench, Chaplin, Fellini, and now a Kennedy.

This name has found its rightful place in cinema history because of your artistic and managerial contributions to it, and I'm so proud to say I knew you from the very beginning of our adventures in movie-making for 41 years.  I have been blessed to count you as a collaborator, a partner, and most important to me, my dear, dear friend.

So, enjoy this rare honour, made even more fitting since we have made so many movies in the UK, we are nearly British.  And in that spirit, I lift this glass and say: cheers.

Oh, this is real champagne?  I thought this was going to be ginger ale.  Okay.  I don't drink champagne, but for you I will. (laughs)

(Film montage)

HRH PRINCE WILLIAM:  Please welcome to the stage Kathleen Kennedy.

KATHLEEN KENNEDY:  Thank you, thank you.  

So the first thing I was going to say is I really didn't recognise you, Your Royal Highness.  You're not in your stormtrooper outfit.  A little inside, but we did have a nice visit.

You know, it has been amazing tonight to see the quality of films, to be reminded of what this word "fellowship" means.  It was interesting to me that I thought that it was a word that really denotes so much of what I appreciate about filmmaking.  And I entered the fellowship of filmmaking with my first trip to England when we filmed Raiders of the Lost Arc.  It's also where I met my husband, Frank Marshall.  

And fellowship and mentorship I think go hand-in-hand, and I was incredibly fortunate to have two of the most incredible mentors in Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.  And in my work with Star Wars, now what we're doing here in the UK, that fellowship continues through the mentoring work we're doing with the BFI and BAFTA as we create more opportunities for voices and new talent to work alongside the legacy talent that began here in the UK over 40 years ago, and will continue to be our home.

People define this fellowship.  People and stories are what have always driven my love of film.

I thank you for this award, and I thank you for the chance to look back and to appreciate the people and the fellowship I share this honour with tonight.  So thank you very much.