30 MARCH 2009

Splitting from Madonna certainly hasn't hampered Guy Ritchie's career. On the same day his former wife arrived in Malawi to adopt baby girl Mercy James, the Snatch director picked up a gong at a London film awards.

The 40-year-old's gangster caper RockNRolla took the best British film prize at the Empire Film Awards, which is voted for by readers of the monthly film magazine. And Guy was in a jubilant mood as he took to the stage to collect the gong along with some of the film's cast, including Scottish actor Gerard Butler, although he declined to speak to the press afterwards.

It was also a big night for Bond girl Gemma Arterton, who was recognised as the best newcomer. "I'm going to put it next to my only other award, which I won for a short play festival when I was 14. This is a proper one," said the actress, elegant in an off the shoulder floaty mini-dress.

One of the big talking points of the night was Russell Crowe's acceptance speech for his lifetime achievement award. The Australian star recited Rudard Kipling's poem If before telling the audience: "Thank you for this honour and the opportunity to read some poetry at a British awards ceremony."

"It's one of my favourite things to do," continued the Gladiator star, whose reading of Patrick Kavanagh's Sanctity was edited out of the TV broadcast of the 2002 BAFTAs.

Other winners included James McAvoy, named best sci-fi hero for his role opposite Angelina Jolie in Wanted, and Viggo Mortensen. The Lord Of The Rings actor was presented with an icon award by Sharpe star Sean Bean.

Batman flick The Dark Knight also received three trophies – including the coveted best film award – while the late Heath Ledger was awarded a special commemorative gong for his life's work.

The RockNRolla director celebrates his best British film award win with Gerard Butler, the gangster flick's lead
Bond girl Gemma Arterton was voted best newcomer on the night
Photo: Getty Images
Other winners included Viggo Mortensen, who accepted an icon award from Sharpe star Sean Bean