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Last Updated: Friday, 12 January 2007, 14:56 GMT
Best of British at the Baftas
By Victoria Lindrea
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

A string of British acting heavyweights have been nominated for this year's Bafta film awards - but who is likely to come out on top?


Helen Mirren in The Queen
Dame Helen said her performance was "a portrait" of the monarch

Dame Helen is this year's "shoo-in", having picked up numerous critics' awards for her role as the monarch in The Queen. She is widely tipped to lift both the Bafta and the Academy Award next month.

Critics have praised her "transcendent performance", which focuses on the monarchy's bemused reaction to the outpouring of public grief that followed the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

A triple award winner in the Bafta TV awards, the actress has so far failed to take home a Bafta film award. This time, however, the money must be on Dame Helen.

But she is not without strong competition. The best actress shortlist includes British thespians Kate Winslet and Dame Judi Dench and the ubiquitous Meryl Streep.

And Spanish actress Penelope Cruz, who gives a career-best performance in Volver, might feasibly steal the royal spoils.


Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal
Dame Judi relished the opportunity to play against type

Where would an awards ceremony be without Dame Judi?

The 72-year-old has won a massive 12 Bafta film nominations since her debut more than 40 years ago and is widely tipped to pick up her fourth Oscar nomination in six years later this month.

Notes on a Scandal, which also picked up a Bafta nomination for best British film, reunites her with Iris director Richard Eyre.

It sees her playing against type as a malicious and lonely schoolteacher who becomes obsessed with a troubled colleague, played by Cate Blanchett.

It marks a brave performance and one Dame Judi says she enjoyed after a run of playing soft-centred matriarchs.

But in this particular clash of the dames, Mirren is likely to come out on top.


Kate Winslet
Winslet is one of the most sought after actresses in film today

Winslet arguably rivals Cate Blanchett as the best actress of her generation. Five Bafta nominations in a decade is a remarkable achievement for the 31-year-old, and no-one should rule her out.

Her wide-ranging film work includes the blockbuster Titanic, period dramas Sense and Sensibility and Finding Neverland and the quirky Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Little Children sees her playing Sarah Pierce, a bored suburban mother isolated by her intellect, who begins a passionate affair with a stay-at-home father.

Directed by Todd Field, who was behind the Oscar-nominated tragedy In the Bedroom, it is a mature, absorbing drama given weight by Winslet's searingly honest portrayal.


Daniel Craig in Casino Royale
Craig's Bond returned to 007's early days as a spy

Daniel Craig was perhaps a surprise choice on the shortlist for best actor, but his performance as James Bond has been acclaimed by fans and critics alike.

Charged with reinvigorating the action franchise, it is the 38-year-old British star's first Bafta film nomination - and the first for an actor in the Bond role.

His strong performances in films such as Layer Cake, Enduring Love and Sylvia have not gone unnoticed, and Craig brought hidden depths to his particular version of the womanising spy.

With Bond's British heritage and the film's box office success, Craig is a strong contender for the Bafta.

But Craig remains an outsider for the Oscars, with Forest Whitaker tipped to trounce the competition for The Last King of Scotland.


Leslie Phillips (l) and Peter O'Toole in Venus
O'Toole's co-star Leslie Phillips (left) is also nominated for a Bafta

It is tempting to categorise Peter O'Toole's role in British film Venus as a 'dirty old man' - but the veteran actor brings a humanity and humour to what might otherwise be uncomfortable viewing.

The 74-year-old Irish-born star, once famed for his heavy-drinking, plays veteran actor Maurice, who forms an unlikely attachment to Jody Whittaker's sulky teenager.

A terminal womaniser, his lust parries with her gift for sexual manipulation - making an interesting companion piece to director Roger Michell's The Mother.

A previous winner of the best actor Bafta in 1963 for Lawrence of Arabia, O'Toole is the most likely nominee to steal Forest Whitaker's fire - and is widely tipped for his eighth Oscar nomination.

As he insisted when he received an honorary Oscar in 2003, he remains very much "still in the game".


Richard Griffiths (r) and Clive Merrison
Griffiths reprises the role that won him a Tony award on Broadway

In The History Boys, Richard Griffiths repeats the performance that made him a global hit on the stage, winning a Tony Award in 2006.

Like O'Toole's Maurice, Griffiths brings pathos and warmth to the eccentric Hector, whose passion for teaching is undercut by his penchant for his young pupils.

A stunning character actor, Harry Potter's Uncle Vernon arguably remains more admired for his stage performances than those on the big screen - and The History Boys does not prove quite as successful on celluloid as it did on Broadway.

Griffiths, nominated alongside co-star Frances De La Tour, is an outsider for the Bafta. But the actor, who has never received a nomination before, will appreciate the long overdue recognition.

The nominations and clips from the films

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