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Oscars 2002 Tuesday, 19 March, 2002, 08:34 GMT
Multi-faceted Broadbent

Jim Broadbent, a first-time Oscar nominee, has been recognised for playing the real-life figure of John Bayley, the widower of the late Dame Iris Murdoch in the picture Iris.

The 52-year-old British actor has been prolific of late, appearing as the larger than life proprietor in the musical Moulin Rouge, as well as the father of the title character in Bridget Jones's Diary.

Broadbent joins fellow British actors Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Ben Kingsley in the supporting acting category.

Acotr Jim Broadbent
Broadbent: Impressive ability for changing role and appearance

It's an unpredictable contest and Broadbent could well win the trophy, although many Oscar odds-makers view Sir Ian as the favourite.

The unassuming Broadbent admits the prospect of winning has crossed his mind.

He says: "I have given it a bit of thought, any of us might actually win, it's just luck really, I'm excited to be in the game for a few weeks - it's just a pleasure really."

Over the past few years Broadbent has excelled in several high profile roles.

These have allowed him to display an impressive chameleon-like quality, playing WS Gilbert in director Mike Leigh's Topsy-Turvy or the real-life John Bayley in Iris.

Broadbent could also have been nominated for playing Harold Zidler in Moulin Rouge.

'Moving'

He admits he was equally taken with his role in that musical as he was with the very different character he portrays in Iris.

"They were both equally thrilling. It's great to be able to say that with complete honesty. I love that changing from one thing to another," he claims.

But Broadbent found the screenplay for Iris had a definite emotional pull.

Jim Broadbent and Dame Judi Dench in Iris
Broadbent: Nervous about playing John Bayley

"It was very moving," he says but adds that at first felt he might not have what it took to play Bayley who is a septuagenarian.

In fact it took some convincing from Iris' director Sir Richard Eyre to get Broadbent to do the role.

Broadbent confirms: "I was hesitant initially because I thought I was much too young to play the role but Richard convinced me that, that wasn't a problem."

'Empathy'

Iris chronicles the enduring love affair between Murdoch and John Bayley, her husband for more than 40 years.

It also the tells the story of Murdoch's descent into Alzheimer's Disease.

With the material Broadbent says: "I identified with it a lot, being with people with Alzheimer's.

"So I had sort of an empathy for the John Bayley character so it felt natural."

When asked what difference an Oscar trophy could make to his already well-established career Broadbent says: "Maybe I could charge a bit more money."

But for the actor what really matters is that he gets quality roles.

"I've have had quite a good run of good scripts. As long as I can keep getting interesting work, that's what I would like."

The Oscars ceremony will be broadcast live on BBC Two on Monday 25 March from 0045-0500 GMT and reported live on BBC News Online.

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