Joanna Lumley is to replace Stephen Fry as host of this year’s Bafta Film Awards.

The Absolutely Fabulous actress will be the first female host since Mariella Frostrup co-presented with Fry in 2001.

He has presided over the ceremony 12 times in total, but recently said he feels it’s time to “let others take the Baftas on to new heights”.

Lumley got a rapturous reception when she received the Bafta Fellowship at the Bafta TV Awards last May.

She was confirmed as host after this year’s nominations were announced – led by Guillermo Del Toro’s fantasy romance The Shape of Water, which is up for 12 prizes.

Joanna Lumley and Stephen FryImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionLumley said Stephen Fry had been “staggering and unbeatable” as host

“Honestly, how exciting is this?” she said. “It’s just so unbelievably thrilling. Who thought I’d turn into Stephen Fry?

“I want to thank Bafta so much for asking me to do this. I said yes indecently quickly.”

Lumley is best known as Patsy in BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous and has had roles in movies including The Wolf of Wall Street, Ella Enchanted and Paddington 2 – which is up for three Baftas this year.

The actress said Stephen Fry had been “staggering and unbeatable and matchless” as a host.

But she added that she was pleased that “they chose me as a woman this year, because it’s 100 years since women got the vote – women over 30 I might add… which includes me”.

Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley in Absolutely Fabulous
Image captionLumley starred with Jennifer Saunders in Absolutely Fabulous

She said nominees may decide to “take the lead” from Sunday’s Golden Globes, where most guests wore black as a mark of solidarity with victims of sexual assault and harassment.

“Perhaps we will see this all black-gowned Baftas this year,” Lumley told BBC Breakfast. “But I think people can wear what they want. It’s going to be interesting to see how it works, anyway.”

This year’s film awards ceremony will take place at London’s Royal Albert Hall on Sunday 18 February.

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