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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 January 2007, 17:51 GMT
British actresses in Oscars race
The Queen
Helen Mirren is nominated for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II

British actresses Dame Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet and Dame Judi Dench will go head to head for the best actress Oscar at this year's Academy Awards.

They face competition from Penelope Cruz and Meryl Streep.

"I'm in frighteningly good company. It is very nice of the Queen to allow me in," said Dame Judi, referring to Dame Helen's celebrated role in The Queen.

Musical drama Dreamgirls has eight nominations, including three for best song, but missed out on best picture.

Jack Nicholson's omission from the best supporting actor category was a major surprise
David Rainford

Instead The Queen, Babel, The Departed and Clint Eastwood's Letters From Iwo Jima all receive nominations.

Independent comedy Little Miss Sunshine also made the shortlist, days after it was named best picture by Producers Guild of America - which has picked the eventual Oscar winner 11 times in the last 17 years.

Whitaker nominated

Dreamgirls - 8 (pictured)
Babel - 7
Pan's Labyrinth - 6
The Queen - 6
Blood Diamond - 5
The Departed - 5

The 79th Academy Awards ceremony will be held at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles on 25 February.

Comedy star Ellen DeGeneres will host for the first time, following in the footsteps of Jon Stewart, Steve Martin, Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal.

The best actor category is dominated by Forest Whitaker, who has already picked up several awards for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King Of Scotland.

Other nominees include Peter O'Toole, Will Smith, Ryan Gosling and Leonardo DiCaprio.

"To put a lot of hard work and effort into a project or a character like this, and then for it to be recognised, how can it not be nice?" said DiCaprio, who was shortlisted for his performance in African thriller Blood Diamond.

Martin Scorsese will be hoping to win best director for mob drama The Departed, but goes up against Clint Eastwood, who beat him to the title in 2005.

Salma Hayek and Academy President Sid Ganis
Academy President Sid Ganis and Salma Hayek announced the nominees in a dawn ceremony

Other directors on the 2007 shortlist are Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for Babel, Stephen Frears for The Queen and Paul Greengrass for United 93, which reconstructed the United Airlines hijacking of 11 September, 2001.

"It's obviously very thrilling," Greengrass told the BBC, "not just on a personal level but on a professional level".

"What's really wonderful about it is to be part of a film that dealt with these difficult events, and that cinema that deals with the contentious and difficult can have its place at the Oscar nominations."

Notable nominees

Meryl Streep's nomination for best actress in The Devil Wears Prada extends her lead as the most-nominated actress in the history of the Academy Awards.

Her tally now extends to 14 nominations and two wins.

Volver missed out on a nomination for best foreign film

At the other end of the scale is Spanish actress Penelope Cruz, who receives her first ever Oscar nomination for Pedro Almodovar's film Volver.

Her friend and co-star in the film Bandidas, Salma Hayek, shouted "yes!" as Cruz's name was read out at the announcement of the nominations in Los Angeles.

However, Volver lost out on a nomination for best foreign language film, where Guillermo Del Toro's fantasy epic Pan's Labyrinth is the key contender.

Other notable nominees include Eddie Murphy, who picks up his first Oscar nomination in a 25-year career for his supporting role in Dreamgirls.

Last King of Scotland
Forest Whitaker has won plaudits for Last King Of Scotland

Two former singers also make the shortlist - rapper and underwear model Mark Wahlberg is noted for his performance in The Departed, and American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson for her role in Dreamgirls.

Meanwhile 10-year-old Abigail Breslin could be the youngest ever Oscar winner if she takes home the supporting actress trophy for Little Miss Sunshine.

Former US Vice President Al Gore's film about global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, has been nominated in the best documentary feature category.

In a statement he said: "I am so grateful to the entire team and pleased that the Academy has recognised their work. This film proves that movies really can make a difference."

Clips of Oscar 2007 best actress nominees

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