Curtis biopic leads race for independent film awards

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Control, Anton Corbijn's biopic of the Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, leads the nominations for this year's British Independent Film Awards.

The film, which traces the life of the singer who killed himself when he was 23 and on the brink of international fame, is nominated in 10 categories for the awards, which recognise the best of home-grown cinema.

The Dutch-born photographer is in the running for best director, while Control is also up for the title of best British independent film. Sam Riley, the actor who plays Curtis, has been nominated for best actor and most promising newcomer.

Picked for his strong resemblance to Curtis, Riley is not a trained actor. When he was chosen for the part, he was a struggling rock musician whose band had been dropped by their record label, working in a factory and a bar to make ends meet. To prepare for the role, he watched old videos of Curtis on stage.

Samantha Morton, who plays his young wife Debbie, has been nominated for best supporting actor, alongside Toby Kebbell, who plays Joy Division's wheeler-dealer manager Rob Gretton.

Corbijn, who created the cover image for U2's The Joshua Tree album, invested his own money in the film – which cost just £3m to make – when he failed to find backers in Britain. The film follows Curtis from his teenage years in Macclesfield, through his early marriage and the birth of his daughter Natalie, to his premature death.

As his band, signed by the late Tony Wilson's Factory Records, grew more successful, Curtis was diagnosed with epilepsy and prescribed numerous pills with little promise they would improve his condition. His relationship with Debbie became strained and he entered into an affair with a Belgian fan, Annik Honoré. The breakdown of his marriage plunged him into depression.

Control will compete for the title of best British independent film with And When Did You Last See Your Father?, starring Colin Firth and Jim Broadbent, based on the memoirs of the writer Blake Morrison – the moving story of a son at the death bed of his overbearing father. The film has received seven nominations, including best actor for Broadbent and best supporting actor for Firth.

Jamie Bell is up for best actor for his part in Hallam Foe, in which he plays a troubled teenage voyeur who falls in love with an older woman. His co-star Sophia Myles is nominated for best actress.

Eastern Promises, starring Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts and directed by David Cronenberg, received five nominations. Notes On A Scandal, the film based on Zoë Heller's book of the same name about a north London teacher who embarks on an affair with one of her pupils, is nominated in four categories.

Johanna von Fischer, co-director of the awards, said: "It's so difficult to compare the films, they are very different. In the best film category you have Eastern Promises about Russian immigrants in London to Control, a film about a late-Seventies icon that is incredibly beautifully shot."