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Ralph and Rachel lead British hopes for Baftas

January 18, 2006
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A very British romance has beaten off the challenge of Wyoming cowboys and the racially diverse residents of Los Angeles to lead the nominations for next month's Baftas. Ralph Fiennes' politically charged drama The Constant Gardener will be contesting ten gongs at the glitzy prizegiving, with Brokeback Mountain and Crash both following close behind on nine nominations apiece.

All three films will go head to head in the prestigious best movie category, along with Capote and George Clooney's Good Night, And Good Luck. The Ocean's Eleven star will be hoping to scoop the coveted best director trophy, but he will have his work cut out as Ang Lee's gay western swept the board at this week's Golden Globes.

It seems more likely he'll find success in the best supporting actor category, where he has been nominated twice. Jake Gyllenhaal is also in the running for the prize, however, for his performance in Brokeback Mountain, as are Matt Dillon and Don Cheadle for their roles in Crash.

The best actor category meanwhile sees British favourite Ralph Fiennes competing against Heath Ledger, Philip Seymour Hoffman, David Strathairn and Joaquin Phoenix. And the best actress section looks set to be equally closely run, with screen veteran Judi Dench going up against Reese Witherspoon and Rachel Weisz, both of whom found glory at the Golden Globes, and Memoirs Of A Geisha star Ziyi Zhang. Oscar-winner Charlize Theron also landed a nod for her gritty role in the mining drama North County.

Pride And Prejudice star Brenda Blethyn is a strong contender for best supporting actress, as is British beauty Thandie Newton, who impressed critics on both sides of the pond with her portrayal of a pampered wife in Crash. American actresses Catherine Keener, Michelle Williams and Frances McDormand round out the shortlist for that prize.

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BAFTA chairman Duncan Kenworthy announces this year's nominees with Kristin Scott-ThomasPhoto: © AFP
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Rachel Weisz will be hoping to add another trophy to the Golden Glode she has already received for The Constant Gardener
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Critically acclaimed Brokeback Mountain is a strong contender in both the acting and directing categoriesPhoto: © AFP