Liz Taylor Gets BAFTA Life Award

LONDON -- Elizabethan England ruled the day at the 51st British Academy Film Awards with five prizes going for "Elizabeth" and four for last month's leading Oscar-winner, "Shakespeare in Love."

But it was an altogether separate Elizabeth - screen legend Elizabeth Taylor - who got the biggest applause Sunday evening as she haltingly stepped to the podium to a sustained standing ovation to receive a lifetime achievement award from the British Academy.

"It makes me want to act again," said Taylor, 67, who was born in north London but has long lived in the United States. "But nobody will have me."

In an emotional speech, Taylor called the prize "the most incredible award" because "I guess I didn't think of myself as an actress and didn't think many of you did - quite rightly, too."

Ms. Taylor dedicated the prize to those who have been involved with her in her long-standing crusade against AIDS, which "takes up all my energy, my love, my compassion; it's become my life now."

Oscar-winning Italian actor Roberto Benigni triumphed again, winning his second consecutive prize for best actor.

"This is my first prize in England," said the ever-effusive Benigni, who was a memorably manic presence at last month's Oscars. "Really, I am full of joy, like a watermelon."

The recipient this year of seven Academy Awards, including best picture, "Shakespeare in love" took the BAFTA prize for best film, as well as supporting performance prizes for Judi Dench and Australian actor Geoffrey Rush.

A second Australian performer, Cate Blanchett, was named best actress for the title role in "Elizabeth," which won four further awards, including outstanding British film of the year.

Although shut out at the Oscars, the darkly satiric "The Truman Show" won three British Academy awards - best director (Peter Weir), best original screenplay (Andrew Niccol) and best production design.

Best foreign film went to another Oscar also-ran: the Brazilian film "Central Station."

Director Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan," one of the most popular films of 1998, won two lesser BAFTAs - for best sound and best visual effects.