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Tuesday, February 9, 1999 Published at 23:20 GMT


Brits go to Hollywood

Shakespeare In Love is leading British hopes at the Oscars

The British film industry may be the poor relation of Hollywood in terms of cash but it is not short on talent.

British actors and artists have once again netted an impressive range of Academy Award nominations.

Newsnight: Madeleine Holt looks at the state of the British film industry
The romantic comedy, Shakespeare in Love, is leading the British hopes for the Oscars.

It's been put foward for no less than 13 awards - two more than the American film, Saving Private Ryan. British talent in four other films has also been recognised.

[ image: Sir Ian McKellen gets his first Oscar nomination]
Sir Ian McKellen gets his first Oscar nomination
Veteran classical actor Sir Ian McKellen, is enjoying his first Oscar citation at the age of 59 for his portrayal of a tormented, homosexual director of 1930s horror movies in "Gods and Monsters."

He said: "It's not bad for a small, $3m movie made for love and not money."

"I think the world is beginning to grow up and at last gays are at the centre of films and just being treated as perfectly ordinary people. That is an added pleasure for me."

His British co-star, Lynn Redgrave, received a best supporting actress nomination for her pivotal role as the director James Whale's devoted central European housekeeper, Hanna.

She said: "I guess I had been hopeful because people were saying to me there was a good chance."

[ image: A regal Dame Judi Dench]
A regal Dame Judi Dench
Also nominated for a best supporting actress award was Dame Judi Dench, 64, for her brief but powerful role as a majestic Elizabeth I in "Shakespeare in Love".

She said: "You have to make up for it when you've only got eight minutes.You have to make the best of it. First, you get a good costume."

Playing monarchs obviously suits her - she was also nominated for an Oscar for her role as Queen Victoria last year in "Mrs Brown"

Brenda Blethyn: "I feel pretty good"
Shakespeare in Love's British director, John Madden, is also up for an award, along with veteran British playwright Tom Stoppard, who co-wrote the script.

Brenda Blethyn, 52, who narrowly missed out on an Oscar for her role in Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies two years ago - has another crack at the best supporting actress title this year.

[ image: Brenda Blethyn: Second time lucky?]
Brenda Blethyn: Second time lucky?
In Little Voice, based on Jim Cartwright's hit play, she plays raucous northern widow Mari, whose pathologically shy daughter played by Jane Horrocks harbours a secret talent for impersonating famous female singers.

She said: "You don't expect to be nominated once, let alone twice. And the character was kind of unsympathetic. I thought that might put people off."

Just like Shakespeare In Love, seven-times nominated Elizabeth has the Virgin Queen, Joe Fiennes in tights, Geoffrey Rush and a strong British ensemble cast.

Cate Blanchett: "I'm enormously honoured"
Cate Blanchett gives a commanding performance as the young Queen with few friends.

Director Shekhar Kapur may be Indian and Blanchett Australian, but as a whole Elizabeth has a better claim to be British than Shakespeare In Love.

It is produced by Working Title and European giant Polygram.

[ image: Emily Watson: Proud to be in a British movie]
Emily Watson: Proud to be in a British movie
Christopher Eccleston and Kathy Burke both turn in strong performances, as does Joe Fiennes as the ultimately shifty Earl of Essex.

But there is also competition for the most British award in this year's nominations.

Emily Watson: "I'm absolutely over the moon"
Emily Watson, 32, nominated for a best actress award for her portrayal of the classical musician Jacqueline du Pre, is convinced that her film wins the Brit credentials nomination.

She said: "What I think is brilliant is that `Hilary and Jackie' was the only film nominated that was properly British-financed," she said.

"It really is a properly homegrown little British movie, so to get this acknowledgement from the American academy is a kind of vindication."

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