As host Rebel Wilson introduced the Harry Potter star to the stage, she said: “Here to present the next award is Emma Watson. She calls herself a feminist, but we all know she’s a witch.”
Watson then emphasised: “I’m here for all the witches!”
One viewer posted a clip of the moment on Twitter, writing: “Emma Watson destroying JK.”
“Live for Emma Watson throwing subtle shade at JK Rowling at the #BAFTAs #LGBWithTheT #JKDoesntSpeakForMe,” added another.
A third wrote: “was that a jibe by emma watson at jk rowling? what a QUEEEEENNN.”
Earlier in the night, Wilson had made a dig at Rowling.
The comedian – who, over the last year, has been documenting her weight loss journey on Instagram – addressed the fact that she is “looking different” and that she has had a “transformation”, quipping: “I hope JK Rowling still approves.”
Wilson’s joke was a reference to Rowling’s controversial views on transgender people. This week, the author was criticised on social media for a tweet about International Women’s Day.
In a thread criticising the Labour Party’s stance on gender and equality, the Harry Potter novelist wrote: “Apparently, under a Labour government, today will become We Who Must Not Be Named Day.”
Rowling also hit out at Nicola Sturgeon for a law proposed in Scotland that would simplify how trans people’s genders are recognised.
Rowling’s views on trans rights have provoked backlash in the past. American Crime Story actor Sarah Paulson once told Rowling to “shut up” in an Instagram post, while several Harry Potter stars have distanced themselves from the author.
She has repeatedly rejected the idea that she is “transphobic” and has said that she “knows and loves” trans people.
At this year’s Baftas – which took place at the Royal Albert Hall in London – Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi epic Dune led the pack with 11 nominations, closely followed by Jane Campion’s western The Power of the Dog, which amassed a total of eight.
The Power of the Dog won the top prizes at the ceremony – but lead actor Benedict Cumberbatch went home empty-handed, a loss he made light of while on stage later in the evening.