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Apartheid drama brings Caine in from the cold

Michael Caine, the veteran actor best-known as the dour secret agent Harry Palmer in film adaptations of Len Deighton's Cold War thrillers, leads a distinguished British cast in the nominations for the annual Emmy awards for television in the US.

Caine's performance (and accent) as the former South African president and dismantler of apartheid, FW De Klerk, in Mandela and De Klerk, won favour with the judges for the category of best lead actor in a mini-series or special.

Meanwhile, Prime Suspect, the ITV detective mini-series starring Helen Mirren, has been nominated for its third Emmy, as the British success at the Oscars looked set to be continued in the small-screen equivalents.

And Mirren, who won the award for best actress in a TV film last year for Prime Suspect 4, has been shortlisted in the category of outstanding lead actress in a mini-series or special.

Although hospital drama ER, The Larry Sanders Show and the X-Files received the most nominations, British success continued across the board, following the haul of nine Oscars picked up by The English Patient at this year's Oscars.

Trainspotting star McGregor was nominated as outstanding guest actor in a drama series for his role in an ER special, where he starred as Duncan Stewart, a Scot involved in a tense armed robbery.

And Dame Diana Rigg, the former Avenger, was in the frame to be named best supporting actress in a mini-series or special, for her role as Mrs Danvers in Carlton TV's Rebecca, starring alongside Charles Dance and Amelia Fox, which, ironically, got a poor reception when it was broadcast in Britain.

The US also continued its love affair with British comedienne Tracey Ullman, who has won five Emmy awards in the past and was this year nominated for the outstanding performance in a variety or music programme. Her show, Tracey Takes On ..., was also nominated for best variety music programme, and for outstanding art direction, costume design, directing, hairstyling and make-up.

And the show's British writers, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, were nominated for outstanding writing for a variety or music programme.

There were further nominations for Meridian TV's adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma, starring Kate Beckinsale, and Carlton TV's Willows in Winter.

The winners will be announced in September.