And the winner to be announced tomorrow is ...

Hollywood's awards season kicked off with an epic clanger as the Golden Globe website revealed a winner – 72 hours before the event. Guy Adams reports

There may still be 36 hours to go until the audience at this year's Golden Globes gets to see famous people tearing open envelopes, clearing their throats and announcing that "the winner is ..." But Anne Hathaway could be forgiven for starting her victory celebrations early.

The actress, who has been short-listed for her role as a recovering drug addict in the film Rachel Getting Married, has already been identified as the winner of the prestigious "best actress in a drama" gong, on the awards ceremony's official website.

In what some saw as a computer glitch, and others believe to have been a major leak, a gold asterisk briefly appeared next to Hathaway's name in the ceremony's official running order.

Asterisks are not usually added until after the awards have taken place, when they signify the winner. Although it was swiftly taken down, several bookmakers stopped taking bets on the outcome of the race.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which runs the Golden Globes, did little to dampen speculation that a major cock-up had taken place, when it refused to comment on the incident, which took place at lunchtime on Thursday.

Members of the association, which is made up of roughly 80 journalists from around the world, were required to submit their completed ballot papers to the accountancy firm Ernst and Young by Wednesday, meaning that the winners of the awards were already known to some organisers when the website reported Hathaway's "success".

The incident added to the air of fevered anticipation in Hollywood in advance of the annual event, which is in its 66th year. Although they offend some purists by honouring the stars of both film and television, the Globes are widely considered to be the second most prestigious event in the spring awards season, after next month's Oscars.

Remarkably, British actors, directors and producers have an interest in 15 of the 25 categories to be announced during the event, which will be broadcast live from the Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles.

Two British films are among the five competing for the sought-after "best drama" award: Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire and Frost/Nixon, which was made by Working Title, the London-based firm which rose to prominence during the 1990s as the producers of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill.

Kate Winslet, who has never won either an Oscar or a Golden Globe, despite being nominated five times for each award, has a sporting chance of finally breaking her duck, since she is shortlisted twice: as best actress in a drama (the category in which Hathaway's "victory" was announced) for her role in Revolutionary Road, and best supporting actress for The Reader.

Meanwhile Emma Thompson is shortlisted for best actress in a musical or comedy for Last Chance Harvey, while the Irish actors Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are both shortlisted in the actors category for their role in the gangster comedy In Bruges.

The director Stephen Daldry joins Boyle on the shortlist in the "best director" category for The Reader, a film about a Nazi war criminal for which the writer David Hare has also been shortlisted. Ralph Fiennes, who also co-stars in the film, has been shortlisted for his work on two other titles: the HBO TV drama Bernard and Doris, and the film The Duchess.

British stars are also in the running for 11 television awards. Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins are both shortlisted for the BBC costume drama Cranford, while Hugh Laurie is up for best actor in a TV series for his portrayal of Dr Gregory House in House, a role that won him Golden Globes in 2006 and 2007.

Steven Spielberg will be honoured with a special award, celebrating his "outstanding contribution to the entertainment field".

Guy Adams: 'Slumdog Millionaire' catches spirit of times

Today, with the global economy mired in doom and gloom, cinema audiences are turning to feel-good movies which, while not exactly critical triumphs, have managed to embody a sense of cheerful escapism from life's troubles.

Nowhere is this more evident than the box-office charts, which are currently topped by Marley and Me, a flyweight comedy about a labrador, and Four Christmases, the Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn vehicle which critics deemed "eerily unfunny".

Mamma Mia! recently became one of the most lucrative films of all time, defying the credit crunch to make an astonishing $500m (£325m) worldwide, 10 times its budget. Yet the film that truly embodies the spirit of the times may yet turn out to be one of Britain's own: Slumdog Millionaire, the story of an impoverished Indian teenager who wins the local version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

A critical hit (unlike other feel-good fodder) the film, by the Trainspotting auteur Danny Boyle, has already generated nearly $30m in the US despite being on a limited release. On Thursday,it completed a virtual clean sweep of the Critics' Choice Awards and, tomorrow, it is shortlisted for four Golden Globes. Local soothsayers note that the Critics' Choice judges have successfully picked the winner of the best film Oscar in seven out of the past 10 years.

It may be asking too much for Slumdog, made on a shoestring budget of just $15m, to outperform Mamma Mia!, but if Boyle adds to his sackful of Globes tomorrow, it may at least indicate that his industry still knows a masterpiece when it sees it.