Hollywood's surprise: Sophie Okonedo joins the acting A-list of Britons up for an Oscar

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As a book-loving child, she was more attracted to the solitude of life as a writer than the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.

As a book-loving child, she was more attracted to the solitude of life as a writer than the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.

But shortly after leaving school, Sophie Okonedo realised during a writing workshop with the author, Hanif Kureishi, that her talents lay in performing rather than writing.

Yesterday, the actress was celebrating her career choice as 13 years after her stage debut she was rewarded for her efforts with an Oscar nomination.

Ms Okonedo, 36, from London, emerged as the surprise nomination yesterday in the best supporting actress category, for her portrayal of Tatiana Rusesabagina in the film Hotel Rwanda.

She joined a cast of Britons shortlisted for the most prestigious awards in the movie industry, including Imelda Staunton and her director, Mike Leigh, for Vera Drake, Clive Owen for Closer, and Kate Winslet for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

For Ms Okonedo, the nomination was so unexpected that she had decided to visit an art gallery yesterday afternoon with her mother rather than watch the announcement.

"At one stage in my career I didn't even think I'd ever make a film, so to be nominated for an Oscar is overwhelming," she said. "I'm in a state of shock. I've spent 15 years plugging away and the last year has just been amazing."

With her toothy grin and trademark untameable hair, Ms Okonedo has become a familiar sight to some from appearances on British TV in recent years.

Born to an English mother and Nigerian father, she shelved plans to become a writer and studied at Rada before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company.

She went on to London's Royal Court theatre and the National Theatre, where her 1999 performance as Cressida in Troilus and Cressida attracted rave reviews.

The actress, who lives with her partner and two children, continued to make a stream of television dramas, including Sweet Revenge, Clocking Off and White Teeth. Hotel Rwanda tells the true story of a hotel manager who housed more than 1,000 Tutsis refugees during their struggle with the Hutu militia in the Rwanda genocide.

The film, which does not yet have a British distributor, has been described as an African Schindler's List.

Martin Scorsese's lavish epic, The Aviator, about the life of the reclusive millionaire Howard Hughes, garnered 11 nominations including best actor for its star, Leonardo DiCaprio, and directing honours for Scorsese, who is widely regarded as the best director never to have won an Oscar and is now heavily tipped to win this year. The film's British costume designer, Sandy Powell, was also nominated.

THE ACADEMY AWARDS NOMINATIONS

ACTOR IN LEADING ROLE

Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda

Johnny Depp, Finding Neverland

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator

Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby

Jamie Foxx, Ray

ACTOR IN SUPPORTING ROLE

Alan Alda, The Aviator

Thomas Haden Church, Sideways

Jamie Foxx, Collateral

Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby

Clive Owen, Closer

ACTRESS IN LEADING ROLE

Annette Bening, Being Julia

Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full Of Grace

Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake

Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby

Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

ACTRESS IN SUPPORTING ROLE

Cate Blanchett, The Aviator

Laura Linney, Kinsey

Virginia Madsen, Sideways

Sophie Okonedo, Hotel Rwanda

Natalie Portman, Closer

ART DIRECTION

The Aviator; Finding Neverland; Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events; The Phantom Of The Opera; A Very Long Engagement

CINEMATOGRAPHY

The Aviator; House Of Flying Daggers; The Passion Of The Christ; The Phantom Of The Opera; A Very Long Engagement

COSTUME DESIGN

The Aviator; Finding Neverland; Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events; Ray; Troy

DIRECTING

The Aviator; Million Dollar Baby; Ray; Sideways; Vera Drake

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Born Into Brothels; The Story Of The Weeping Camel; Super Size Me; Tupac: Resurrection; Twist Of Faith

DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

Autism Is A World; The Children Of Leningradsky; Hardwood; Mighty Times: The Children's March; Sister Rose's Passion

FILM EDITING

The Aviator; Collateral; Finding Neverland; Million Dollar Baby; Ray

MUSIC (SONG)

"Accidentally In Love", Shrek 2

"Al Otro Lado Del Río", The Motorcycle Diaries

"Learn To Be Lonely", The Phantom Of The Opera

"Look To Your Path (Vois Sur Ton Chemin)", - The Chorus

"Believe", The Polar Express

MUSIC (SCORE)

Finding Neverland; Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban; Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events; The Passion Of The Christ; The Village

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

As It Is In Heaven; The Chorus; Downfall; The Sea Inside; Yesterday

MAKEUP

Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events; The Passion Of The Christ; The Sea Inside

BEST PICTURE

The Aviator; Finding Neverland; Million Dollar Baby; Ray; Sideways

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

The Incredibles; Shark Tale; Shrek 2

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

Birthday Boy; Gopher Broke; Guard Dog; Lorenzo; Ryan

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)

Everything In This Country Must; Little Terrorist; 7:35 In The Morning; Two Cars, One Night; Wasp

SOUND EDITING

The Incredibles; The Polar Express; Spider-Man 2

SOUND MIXING

The Aviator; The Incredibles; The Polar Express; Ray; Spider-Man 2

VISUAL EFFECTS

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban; I, Robot; Spider-Man 2

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

Before Sunset; Finding Neverland; Million Dollar Baby; The Motorcycle Diaries; Sideways

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

The Aviator; Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind; Hotel Rwanda; The Incredibles; Vera Drake

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