LONDON (Reuters) – In what could be a trial run for the Oscars, the last “Lord of the Rings” movie was declared Best Film at the BAFTAS (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) on Sunday, the British film industry’s big night of the year.
“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” landed four BAFTAS at the glittering London awards ceremony, which augurs well for the film’s chances of landing Hollywood’s ultimate accolade.
But Peter Jackson, the New Zealand director of the fantasy trilogy about Middle Earth, had to share the limelight with the sea-going epic “Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World,” starring Russell Crowe, which also landed four BAFTAS.
Jackson, heading a 60-strong delegation of stars and crew at the London ceremony, captured the most coveted prize of the night but was beaten to the BAFTA Best Director gong by “Master And Commander” director Peter Weir.
Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson scooped the top acting honors of the night for their roles in “Lost in Translation.” They beat off some tough competition from the likes of Sean Penn, Johnny Depp, Uma Thurman and Naomi Watts.
Johansson, the new darling of Hollywood, had also been nominated for Best Actress for “Girl with a Pearl Earring.”
Best Supporting Actor went to Britain’s Bill Nighy for his riotously over-the-top portrayal of an aging rock star in the hit feel-good comedy “Love Actually.”
The American civil war drama “Cold Mountain” led the BAFTA field with 13 nominations, widely seen as a valuable pointer to the Oscars.
But on the big night, the only major award for the film was landed by Renee Zellweger, who won Best Supporting Actress for her role as a tough-minded mountain girl.
She has already won a Golden Globe for the part and now looks a hot favorite to land the big one on Hollywood’s Oscar night on February 29.
But Anthony Minghella, the British director of “Cold Mountain,” insisted it was not just a clash of epics. “It’s just a great night for the movies that have been nominated,” he said.
The BAFTAS used to be announced after the Oscars, which meant the British awards ended up a damp squib after the main event.
But now they have been switched, the BAFTA awards have been given a major fillip with Hollywood studios eager to send their big guns to London for publicity in the run-up to Hollywood’s big night.