'Gravity' leads Baftas nominations

"Gravity" leads the nominations for the Baftas on Sunday, but the harrowing "12 Years a Slave" is tipped to win the top honours at the last major awards ceremony before the Oscars.

Hollywood stars are due to pack out the Royal Opera House in London for the glitzy red carpet event, attended by Prince William and hosted for a ninth time by actor Stephen Fry.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards are a useful guide to which way the Academy Awards might go on March 2.

Last year, Argo won for best film, Daniel Day-Lewis for best actor, and Christoph Waltz and Anne Hathaway in the best supporting categories — awards replicated at the Oscars.

With British-made films such as space drama Gravity proving box office hits, and UK actors earning critical acclaim, the Baftas seem likely to reward home-grown talent.

Gravity has 11 nominations; Golden Globe winners 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle were each nominated in 10 categories, while Captain Phillips was nominated nine times.

Behind the Candelabra and Saving Mr. Banks have five nominations each.

12 Years a Slave, starring British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor as a free black man who is kidnapped and enslaved in the United States, is nominated in five of the big six categories.

Bookmakers have 12 Years a Slave as the 1/8 runaway favourite for best film, with Ejiofor even more heavily odds-on for best actor at 1/10.

Cate Blanchett is also 1/10 for best actress for her title role portrayal in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine.

Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron is a 1/2 favourite in his category.

"These really are the precursor to the Oscars," said Joe Crilly, spokesman for betting chain William Hill.

"Usually you have a little battle on your hands — at least for best film — where normally two are relatively close, but this year it's strange that there are so many odds-on favourites," he told AFP.

"There's also the British bias that you generally tend to see at the Baftas.

"If you've got an incredible performance by a non-British actor you will always see them do quite well. But Ejiofor puts in a very good performance and being British we think he shades it over Leonardo DiCaprio."

The Best Film Award is being disputed between 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Gravity and Philomena.

Judi Dench is nominated for drama Philomena in the best actress category — a record 15th Bafta acting nomination taking her one clear of Meryl Streep.

Workers at the Royal Opera House have already been working out the seating plan for the likes of DiCaprio, Blanchett, Dench and Sandra Bullock.

Fellow nominees Matt Damon, Michael Fassbender, Bradley Cooper, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks and Martin Scorsese will also be treading the red carpet.

However, they might be squelching down it under umbrellas if the storms that have been lashing Britain since New Year continue.

Helping to present the awards will be the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Jeremy Irons, Kiefer Sutherland, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Stanley Tucci and Uma Thurman.

Bafta's highest accolade, the Academy Fellowship, is being given this year to Helen Mirren, "in recognition of her exceptional contribution to film".

Prince William, second in line to the throne and the academy's president, will present her with the award.

Previous recipients include Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, Sean Connery, Elizabeth Taylor, Christopher Lee, Anthony Hopkins and Scorsese.

Ms Mirren, a four-time Bafta winner, is "one of the most outstanding actresses of her generation," said the academy's chairman John Willis.

"Helen's incredibly successful career is testament to the determination, dedication and skill she brings to each of her roles."

Besides the regular categories, Bafta also has an Outstanding British Film award.

Gravity, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Philomena, Rush, Saving Mr. Banks and The Selfish Giant are in the running this year.

Here is a list of the nominees in the major categories in the Bafta awards.

Gravity has 11 nominations; 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle were each nominated in 10 categories, while Captain Phillips has nine nominations.

Best Film

12 Years a Slave

American Hustle

Captain Phillips

Gravity

Philomena

Best Leading Actor

Bruce Dern (Nebraska)

Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)

Christian Bale (American Hustle)

Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)

Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)

Best Leading Actress

Amy Adams (American Hustle)

Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)

Judi Dench (Philomena)

Sandra Bullock (Gravity)

Best Supporting Actor

Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)

Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)

Daniel Bruhl (Rush)

Matt Damon (Behind the Candelabra)

Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)

Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)

Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)

Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)

Oprah Winfrey (The Butler)

Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)

Best Director

Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)

David O. Russell (American Hustle)

Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips)

Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)

Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)

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