The monarchy, once seen to be above mockery, has become fair game for A-listers on both sides of the pond during the 2020 awards season, which happens to coincide with the departure over the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
The couple count a string of celebrities among their supporters and friends, including Oprah Winfrey, Ellen Degeneres and George and Amal Clooney, and some social media users speculate their move has emboldened stars to step up and make jokes about the royals.
Today Joaquin Phoenix, 45, is making headlines over his treatment of the royal family, after a video emerged showing his curtsey to Prince William, 37, as the pair were introduced following the BAFTAs on Sunday night.
The unconventional greeting sparked debate online over whether Phoenix was being sincere, or if he was subtly undermining the prince and royal convention. William himself appeared unfazed and praised the star’s ‘brilliant’ work in The Joker.
There has been similar division between viewers over other royal family jokes this awards season – with some questioning whether celebrities have simply gone too far.
London-based etiquette expert William Hanson explained that the royals are currently an ‘easy target’ for celebrities, saying: ‘It is inevitable that the Monarchy’s appeal will ebb and flow over time. We have had years of the royal family being admired and adored, with no one able to do any wrong.
‘Arguably, the pendulum is swinging in the other direction and the Hollywood stars, who will never understand the nuances and heritage of royalty, are using the Queen’s family as easy targets for their humour.’
He continued: ‘Currently, the tiding of magpies that flock around Hollywood see The Duke and Duchess of Sussex as the shiny new toys. It won’t last.’
JOAQUIN PHOENIX’S CURTSEY
Royal greeting: The Joker star Joaquin Phoenix curtsied to Prince William when the pair met following the BAFTAs in London on Sunday night. It is one of a string of recent examples of Hollywood stars poking fun at the royal family, with varying levels of success
Unconventional: A clip of the moment, which has been widely circulated online, shows the actor apparently attempting to adhere to royal protocol while greeting Prince William, 37
Divisive: Viewers couldn’t decide whether or not Phoenix was trying to mock the prince
Joaquin Phoenix caused a stir with his BAFTAs appearance on Sunday night – but it’s not his win or powerful speech that has people talking today.
The Hollywood star, 45, curtsied heavily to the Duke of Cambridge as they met following the show.
A clip of the moment, which has been widely circulated online, shows the best actor winner apparently attempting to adhere to royal protocol while greeting Prince William, 37.
Stand-out moment: The curtsey prompted much discussion from fans on social media, above
Some fans applauded the actor for using the deferential greeting, pointing out that he might not have known the correct way to address the royals.
Etiquette on curtseys
Members of the public are not bound to the traditions and protocols of the Royal Family, although they can choose to curtsey if they wish.
The Queen herself has said she does not expect people to curtsey, and Buckingham Palace reflects this in its protocol advice.
However many people choose to show deference to the royals with their greeting. Women typically curtsey while men bow their heads forwards.
However there is no rules stating men cannot curtsey.
The rules are the same for foreigners like Joaquin Phoenix as for Brits. It is up to the individual as to whether they curtsey or not.
Men typically bow their heads to a member of the royal family and women curtsey, although it is not a requirement for members of the public.
One American supporter tweeted: ‘[Meeting a royal is] not a circumstance we, as North Americans are exposed to, he was showing respect, bow or curtsy, either way … all good … very proud of Joaquin Phoenix this night.’
However others claimed that the actor was mocking William. One tweeted simply: ‘That’s what you call roasting someone.’ Another asked: ‘Was that a joke?’
Certainly the unconventional move didn’t phase Prince William. The pair went onto discuss Phoenix’s film, The Joker, with the royal saying it ‘blew his mind’.
‘I absolutely loved The Joker. It was brilliant,’ praised the Prince. ‘I put it off and put it off watching it, as people kept telling me “be careful when you choose to watch it”, but when I did it blew my mind, it was really good.’
Prince William and Joaquin also shared a similar message in their speeches at the Royal Albert Hall event, addressing the clear lack of diversity in the acting and directing categories.
BRAD PITT’S ‘HARRY’ JOKE
‘I’m calling it Harry’: Margot Robbie read out a speech on behalf of co-star Brad Pitt when she collected his Best Supporting Actor BAFTA, pictured. She said: ‘He says he is going to name this Harry because he is really excited about bringing it back to the States with him’
Cracking up: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were seen laughing at the joke
Famous friends: Some fans speculated that Brad Pitt was making a point by telling the British Royal Family that Harry is a ‘trophy’ who has now stepped down from his role
Brad Pitt, 56, was not at the BAFTAs to accept his Best Supporting Actor award and instead asked Once Upon A Time in Hollywood co-star Margot Robbie to pick up the gong.
Robbie read out a speech on his behalf, quipping: ‘He says he is going to name this Harry because he is really excited about bringing it back to the States with him. His words not mine.’
The camera immediately panned to the Duke and Duchess at the ceremony, who were seen laughing alongside the rest of the crowd from their seats.
The joke also tickled viewers at home, who took to Twitter in their hundreds to praise the well-placed joke.
REBEL WILSON’S PRINCE ANDREW JIBE
Taking aim: Actress Rebel Wilson made a quip about Prince Andrew, who stepped back from royal duties last year amid the scandal surrounding his connection to Jeffrey Epstein
Controversial: The moment divided opinion on Twitter and appeared to fall a little flat
Prince Harry wasn’t the only royal to come under fire during the BAFTA ceremony.
Actress Rebel Wilson made a quip about Prince Andrew, who stepped back from royal duties last year amid the scandal surrounding his connection to Jeffrey Epstein.
Presenting the Best Director award, Rebel referenced the controversy as she quipped: ‘It is really great to be here at the Royal Andrew… uh, Royal Harry… no, sorry, Royal Phil- at this royal… palace place.’
The joke appeared to land less well than Pitt’s royal family venture, with William and Kate looking stony-faced in their seats.
Viewers were divided, with one fan tweeting: ‘I didn’t realize that Rebel Wilson made a Prince Andrew joke. Good job Hollywood.’
However one critic posted: ‘Brad Pitt’s joke totally could’ve slipped although it was disrespectful IMO, but the joke Rebel Wilson was making about Andrew and Harry was totally out of line and clearly no one there found it funny. Why do celebs think things like this is a good idea?’
… AND ANOTHER ONE FROM RICKY GERVAIS
In the firing line: Ricky Gervais used Prince Andrew’s controversial relationship with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein to make a joke about Leonardo di Caprio’s string of younger girlfriends during his opening monologue at the Golden Globes last month (pictured)
Laughing at himself: DiCaprio saw the funny side and could be seen laughing in the audience
This year’s awards ceremony kicked off with the Golden Globes on 5 January – before the Sussexes’ departure – and Prince Andrew was firmly in the firing line.
In his monologue, the comedian used the royal’s controversial relationship with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein to make a joke about Leonardo di Caprio’s string of younger girlfriends.
Discussing the actor’s recent movie Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Gervais, 58, complained it was too long.
He joked: ‘Leonardo DiCaprio attended the premiere and by the end, his date was too old for him.’
Amid laughter from the star-studded audience, Gervais added: ‘Even Prince Andrew is like, ”come on Leo mate, you’re nearly 50, son”.’
Inside the event, cameras caught Leo’s reaction. It seemed the actor – who is currently dating 22-year-old Camila Morrone – was able to poke fun at himself, blushing and smiling while the rest of the room cracked up.