Will Smith Wins Best Leading Actor at 2022 BAFTA Awards for Role in 'King Richard'

Adeel Akhtar, Mahershala Ali, Benedict Cumberbatch, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Stephen Graham were also nominated for the honor at the 2022 BAFTA Awards

will smith
Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty

Will Smith has taken the leading actor honor at the 2022 BAFTA Awards.

Smith, 53, won the top male acting award for his role as Serena and Venus Williams' father, Richard Williams Jr., in King Richard.

The star beat out Adeel Akhtar (Ali & Ava), Mahershala Ali (Swan Song), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog), Leonardo DiCaprio (Don't Look Up), and Stephen Graham (Boiling Point).

Smith was not in attendance at London's Royal Albert Hall on Sunday to accept his award, so King Richard director Reinaldo Marcus Green spoke on his behalf.

"Will is gutted he couldn't be here this evening. This is a tremendous honor and I know he would be thanking you so much from the bottom of his heart. This is such a personal film for Will. From the moment he took this role he embodied Richard Williams. He would thank the Williams family. There is no film without them. It is a true honor to have shared their story," he said.

"Will was a fearless leader on set, a tremendous actor. He would thank the fellow actors in his category. You guys are tremendous. Thank you so much for this honor, for this award. Will we're bringing this home for you. When he put on those short shorts he was like Superman," Green concluded.

BAFTA Awards. Chris Jackson/Getty

Smith's win marks his first-ever BAFTA Award, after previously taking home the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and NAACP Image awards for his role in King Richard.

While Smith is nominated alongside Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of Macbeth) at this year's upcoming Critics Choice Awards and Academy Awards, Washington, 67, couldn't be prouder of his longtime friend.

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"We've spent a lot of time together. So we've been talking, he's always been a mentor for me and he grabbed me and he said, 'This is your year,'" Smith told PEOPLE (the TV Show!)'s Kay Adams of Washington last month after winning outstanding performance by a male actor in a leading role at the SAG Awards.

"He just hugged me and he said, 'I'm so happy for you. Just love who you're becoming,'" Smith added.

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This year's BAFTA Awards were hosted by Rebel Wilson, who announced the news in January by poking fun at her hosting duties and teasing fans about what to expect when she takes the stage.

"I am very honoured to be hosting the EE British Academy Film Awards in March, where Covid will no longer exist because it will clearly have been canceled by then. It's going to be so much fun!" the Pitch Perfect star, 42, began her caption on Instagram.

"I don't wanna put any pressure on this — I know I'm not going to be funny because I am no longer fat," she continued. "And besides, I'm not going to 'sweat-it' with nerves because I have a peculiar medical condition where I can't sweat ... or cause offense to people because of my adorable Australian accent."

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