Page last updated at 17:39 GMT, Thursday, 21 January 2010

Bafta nominations: Avatar and An Education lead field

Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard

British film An Education is battling major Hollywood movies Avatar and The Hurt Locker with eight nominations each at the British Academy Film Awards.

An Education's Carey Mulligan is up for best actress alongside Meryl Streep and Audrey Tautou, with further nods for best film and director Lone Scherfig.

District 9 has seven nominations, while Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds and Up in the Air have six nominations each.

The awards take place at London's Royal Opera House on 21 February.

The main nominations were announced by British actors Matthew Goode and Romola Garai at Bafta's London headquarters.

Hard-hitting tale

Sci-fi epic Avatar, named best movie drama at Sunday's Golden Globes, is also shortlisted for best film, as is Iraq thriller The Hurt Locker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow.

George Clooney in Up in the Air
George Clooney is nominated for best actor for Up in the Air

They are joined by Precious, the hard-hitting tale of a high school student coping with issues including teenage pregnancy and sexual abuse, and recession-era drama Up in the Air, starring George Clooney.

Avatar director James Cameron once again goes head to head with ex-wife Bigelow in the best director category. Cameron beat Bigelow in the same category at the Golden Globes.

Danish director Scherfig, Quentin Tarantino and South Africa's Neill Blomkamp - for District 9 - complete the line-up.

In the best actor category, Clooney competes with fellow Americans Jeff Bridges - for his role as a heavy-drinking country music singer in Crazy Heart - and Jeremy Renner.

"What an honour to receive these nominations," said Renner, who plays a bomb disposal expert in The Hurt Locker.

"We are so moved by the recognition for our work on this film. Truly it was a labour of love."

But they face competition from British actors Colin Firth, nominated for A Single Man, and Andy Serkis, shortlisted for his performance as Ian Dury in Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll.

Serkis, 45, said he was "totally blown away" to be nominated for his role as the late Blockheads singer.

Gabourey Sidibe and Mo'Nique in Precious
Gabourey Sidibe and Mo'Nique are nominated for their roles in Precious

"The whole experience of making this film with such amazingly talented, articulate, honest people has been a joy," he added.

"To get this nomination is not only a great thrill for all of us involved, but a fitting tribute at a time that we mark the 10-year anniversary of the passing of the magnificent man himself, the unique Ian Dury."

Streep, up for her portrayal of cookery guru Julia Child in Julie and Julia, won the best actress Bafta for The French Lieutenant's Woman in 1982 and has been nominated a further nine times.

She is joined in the best actress category by 24-year-old Mulligan, Tautou - for her role as Coco Chanel in Coco Before Chanel - and Saoirse Ronan, for The Lovely Bones, as well as newcomer Gabourey Sidibe for Precious.

But there is no place in the line-up for Dame Helen Mirren, winner of the best actress Bafta in 2007 for The Queen.

Her role as Tolstoy's wife in The Last Station earned her a Golden Globe best actress nomination were she went up against fellow Briton Emily Blunt.

However, both Dame Helen and The Young Victoria star Blunt have missed out on Bafta nods.

An Education, which is partly funded by BBC Films, is also nominated in categories including best British film.

There it will compete against political satire In The Loop and Sam Taylor-Wood's Nowhere Boy.

Aaron Johnson and Anne-Marie Duff in Nowhere Boy
Anne-Marie Duff (r) is recognised for playing John Lennon's mother

In the best supporting actor category An Education's Alfred Molina is up against fellow Briton Christian McKay, who said he was "very grateful" to be recognised for Me And Orson Welles.

"I thought there could be no greater accolade than getting to play Orson Welles in my first film, but being Bafta-nominated is very close," he said.

Meanwhile, British actresses Anne-Marie Duff and Kristin Scott Thomas are both nominated for best supporting actress for their roles in Nowhere Boy.

Taylor-Wood is nominated for the John Lennon biopic in the outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer category.

Fellow nominees include David Bowie's director son Duncan Jones, shortlisted for sci-fi film Moon.

In addition to Bafta's eight nominations for An Education, actress Carey Mulligan is also nominated for the Orange Rising Star Award.

Twilight's Kristen Stewart, Nicholas Hoult, Jessie Eisenberg and A Prophet's Tahar Rahim are also in contention for the prize, decided by a public vote.

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