There were doubts from some diehard James Bond fans when Daniel Craig was named as the new 007. But if his performance as a rougher, tougher secret agent did not dispel them, his surprise nomination for a prestigious leading actor award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) certainly should.
Craig becomes the first Bond ever to reach the shortlist for Britain's top movie honours, alongside home-grown stars including Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, Richard Griffiths and Peter O'Toole.
David Parfitt, the producer of films such as Shakespeare in Love, who chaired the Bafta film committee, said he believed the 38-year-old actor was being honoured for a body of excellent work in recent years. "This was a different role for him and demonstrates his great range," he said.
But he will face stiff competition from Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed, Peter O'Toole for his performance as an ageing lothario in Venus, Richard Griffiths, who plays a teacher in The History Boys and Forest Whitaker for his imposing turn as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.
While Bond films have not always won critical favour, Casino Royale was widely, if not universally, deemed a return to form and secured a total of nine Bafta nominations. Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson, its producers, said they were "thrilled", especially for Craig and his co-star Eva Green, a candidate for the rising star award.
The film itself is in the running for the Alexander Korda award for outstanding British production of the year against The Last King of Scotland; Notes on a Scandal, the adaptation of Zoe Heller's story of north London teachers; United 93, about the 11 September 2001 plane hijacking; and The Queen, Stephen Frears' depiction of the week after the death of the Princess of Wales.
As widely predicted, The Queen leads the nominations list with 10. It is one of two British films - the other being The Last King of Scotland - to make the best film list. Frears is up for best director againstScorsese, Paul Greengrass for United 93 and Alejandro González Iñárritu for his story across several continents, Babel.
Helen Mirren has already won a clutch of awards for her portrayal of the Queen, including from the Venice Film Festival and the critics of New York and Los Angeles. But while a Bafta favourite, Mr Parfitt insisted she was not a shoo-in for best actress in a category also including Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet. Dench is nominated for her performance as an older teacher inNotes on a Scandal for which Patrick Marber has been shortlisted for writing the screenplay.Marber said: "I think people expect Judi to be nominated for whatever she does but - it's a bit like Alan Bennett - her brilliance is taken for granted. I think it's one of her best ever performances."
The strong list of films this year means that Red Road, the Cannes jury prize winner directed by Andrea Arnold, is recognised only in the special achievement for a first feature film category.
The winners will be announced on 11 February.
The Last King of Scotland
Little Miss Sunshine
BEST LEADING ACTOR
Daniel Craig - Casino Royale
Leonardo DiCaprio - The Departed
Richard Griffiths - The History Boys
Peter O'Toole - Venus
Forest Whitaker - The Last King of Scotland
BEST LEADING ACTRESS
Penélope Cruz - Volver
Judi Dench - Notes on a Scandal
Helen Mirren - The Queen
Kate Winslet - Little Children
Meryl Streep - The Devil Wears Prada
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Alan Arkin - Little Miss Sunshine
James McAvoy - The Last King of Scotland
Jack Nicholson - The Departed
Leslie Phillips - Venus
Michael Sheen - The Queen
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Emily Blunt - The Devil Wears Prada
Abigail Breslin, Toni Colette - Little Miss Sunshine
Frances De La Tour - The History Boys
Jeniffer Hudson - Dreamgirls