Hollywood is sending in the big guns for Sunday’s BAFTA awards as movie publicists shift into high gear for next month’s Oscars.
Winning a British film industry award is no guarantee of Oscar success, but a statuette from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts can provide a valuable pre-Oscar boost.
Triple-Oscar nominee George Clooney will be joined on the BAFTA red carpet by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, stars of the gay cowboy movie “Brokeback Mountain,” which ranks as one of the hottest Oscar contenders this year.
Among the other Oscar nominees confirmed for London are “Capote” star Philip Seymour Hoffman, best actress contender Charlize Theron from “North Country” and supporting actor hopeful Matt Dillon of “Crash.”
Hype reigns supreme in film award season but, even with three Oscar and four BAFTA nominations under his belt, Clooney remains sanguine.
“People wax and wane, it ebbs and flows on what my standing is,” he told Reuters in an interview at the Berlin Film Festival before heading to London.
At the BAFTAs, Clooney will be competing against himself as he has been nominated for best actor in a supporting role for two films: the Middle East thriller “Syriana” and “Good Night, and Good Luck” about Edward R. Murrow’s showdown with Senator Joseph McCarthy.
He also is competing for a BAFTA for best director and best original screenplay for “Good Night, and Good Luck.”
Another star reluctant to get caught up in all the hype is Judi Dench, who has been nominated for a best actress Oscar and a best actress BAFTA for “Mrs. Henderson Presents.”
“It is not good to cross the bridge before you get to it,” Dench told Reuters after receiving her 11th BAFTA nomination for her role playing a 1930s widow who buys an abandoned theater and goes on to stage what became Britain’s most famous nude review.
The BAFTAs were shifted in 2001 from April to February to fall between the Golden Globes and the Oscars, with organizers hoping to capture some reflected Hollywood glitter in the packed awards calendar.
But they are not a natural prequel to the Oscars.
Last year’s Clint Eastwood boxing drama “Million Dollar Baby” swept the board at the Oscars but failed to score at the BAFTAs after distributors refused to send out copies of the film to voters.
Flying the flag for Britain at the BAFTAs will be the political thriller “The Constant Gardener,” which landed 10 nominations. Its stars, Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, are up for top acting honors.
Box office receipts rose one percent in Britain last year, bucking the downward European trend. But film production slumped due to uncertainty over the British government’s tax regime.