Baftas 2013: Affleck's Argo Wins Top Prize

Hostage drama Argo has continued its journey from awards-season outsider to favourite, winning three prizes, including best picture, at the Baftas.

Ben Affleck was named best director for the film about a risky plot to rescue a group of US diplomats from Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The movie also took the editing trophy.

It is now considered a front-runner for the best picture award at the Oscars on February 24, even though Affleck was not nominated for best director.

The star, who rose to fame as an actor, said: "I want to say this is a second act for me and you've given me that. This industry has given me that and I want to thank you and I'm so grateful and proud."

George Clooney, who co-produced the film, paid tribute to the director, saying: "You're smart and you know what you want but more important, you love what you're doing."

And few were surprised when Daniel Day-Lewis picked up the best actor award for his title role in Lincoln.

Day-Lewis' award was the only prize out of 10 nominations for Steven Spielberg's historical biopic.

The British/Irish actor accepted the award and poked fun at his own reputation for immersing himself in his characters and his devotion to method acting.

"On the chance I might one day have to speak on an evening such as this I've stayed in character as myself for the last 55 years," he said.

Day-Lewis, who has already won a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild award for his performance, is also tipped to win an Oscar later this month.

Skyfall won outstanding British film, and its director Sam Mendes paid tribute to the "bravery and brilliance" of Daniel Craig and "the great" Ian Fleming, who created James Bond.

Speaking backstage, Mendes said he would love to make another Bond film.

He said that he had "had a great time, it's been a huge learning curve and we would want to make a better movie next time around".

Thomas Newman's score also won the best music prize.

British-made French Revolutionary musical Les Miserables won four prizes, including best supporting actress for Anne Hathaway. 

She also expressed sympathy for co-star Eddie Redmayne, who had been due to present an award, but - as co-presenter Sally Field informed the audience - was vomiting backstage.

"Feel better," Hathaway said. "I mean I'd be holding your hair back, but, you know ..."

Hitchcock actor Dame Helen Mirren, who turned heads with a pink hairdo, lost out to 85-year-old French film legend Emmanuelle Riva.

Riva was named best actress for her performance in Amour, which also won best foreign language film.

Quentin Tarantino picked up the award for his slavery-themed Western Django Unchained and thanked his actors for doing a "bang-up job with my dialogue".

The film has attracted criticism for its liberal use of racial insults and Tarantino thanked his backers for standing by what he described as "a hot potato" film.

Django Unchained's Christoph Waltz won the supporting actor gong, and the actor said his victory was entirely due to Tarantino - "you silver-penned devil, you".

Kathryn Bigelow's Osama bin Laden thriller Zero Dark Thirty was shut out of the prizes, despite five nominations.

Argo marks a change for Affleck, whose first two features as director - Gone Baby Gone and The Town - were set in his native Boston. 

"I wanted to get as far away from Boston as I could," Affleck said. "I ended up in Iran."

Before the ceremony, stars including Clooney, Affleck, Hugh Jackman, Samuel L Jackson, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper braved chilly rain that turned to snow outside the Royal Opera House.

The ceremony also saw director Alan Parker receive a Bafta Fellowship, the academy's highest honour, for a career that includes Midnight Express, Fame and Mississippi Burning.