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banner Thursday, 21 March, 2002, 18:04 GMT
Rings favourite to sweep Oscars
The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings has 13 Oscar nominations
The Lord of the Rings is going to win seven Oscars at Sunday's ceremony - at least according to bookmakers, who say it is likely to walk off with more statuettes than any other film.

The epic has been strongly backed by UK punters, especially over the last week, while A Beautiful Mind has lost support, according to UK spread betting firm Cantor Index.

A Beautiful Mind
A Beautiful Mind: Tipped to win five Oscars
Bookmakers had thought A Beautiful Mind was as good as guaranteed the best picture prize, but recent bets on The Lord of the Rings have persuaded Cantor Index to decide that it is still a two-horse race.

The Oscars ceremony is taking place in Hollywood on Sunday.

If the bookmakers are to be believed, Denzel Washington may upset Russell Crowe's chances in the best actor category, while Halle Berry has been gaining support for the best actress prize.

Cantor Index said A Beautiful Mind will win five awards but The Lord of the Rings will leave the Oscars with seven.

In the race for best picture, the other nominees - Moulin Rouge, In the Bedroom and Gosford Park - do not have a chance, they said.

Click here to put your questions to Michael B Seligman, Oscars show producer

Crowe is still favourite to be named best actor, and Training Day star Washington is the only man who can beat him, according to their odds.

The best actress category is slightly more open, with In the Bedroom star Spacek leading the field.

A lot of money has been put on Berry, for her role in Monster's Ball, making her second favourite ahead of Moulin Rouge star Nicole Kidman.

A Beautiful Mind's Ron Howard is strong favourite to win best director, with Peter Jackson second for The Lord of the Rings, but Gosford Park's Robert Altman cannot be ruled out, Cantor Index said.

Denzel Washington and Halle Berry
Denzel Washington and Halle Berry are still in the running
The Lord of the Rings got the most nominations, with 13, and is also widely expected to triumph in a number of technical categories.

Academy members are likely to have been impressed by the scale of the project, which took five years to complete, and the fact that the film is based on such a renowned novel, according to Cantor's Dominic Crosthwaite.

"On top of that, two things - great special effects and box office success - mean the academy should look upon it very favourably," he said.

But two more Lord of the Rings films have already been made and are due to be released over the next two years - and this could count against the first film, The Fellowship of the Ring, he added.

That could make the academy reluctant to give it too many prizes, he said, because they would have to do the same for the next two films.

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

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The Lord of the Rings
Watch a clip from The Lord of the Rings
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