Dame Judi's face fits at last as British actresses lead Oscar list

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The Independent Online
DAME Judi Dench, 63, was yesterday nominated for her first Oscar for her role as Queen Victoria in the film Mrs Brown. She joins Helena Bonham Carter, Julie Christie and Kate Winslet in securing four of the five Best Actress nominations for Britain.

Expressing her surprise and delight last night, Dame Judi told how she had been put off acting in films for years after a director turned her down for a part long ago. "This director said: 'You have everything wrong with your face'," she recalled. "And I never got over it."

Dame Judi said she didn't know yet whether she would be given time off from her role in David Hare's play Amy's View in the West End of London to attend the Oscar ceremony.

She was, she said, "dreadfully disappointed" that her co-star Billy Connolly had not been nominated. And she told how, when they were making the BBC film about Queen Victoria and her ghillie John Brown in Scotland, they were under the impression that they were making a film for television. It was scheduled to be shown last Easter, but the head of Miramax saw it and said Miramax would distribute it as a feature film instead. It has already grossed $14m (pounds 8.75m).

The Best Actor category this year is dominated by veterans Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Peter Fonda and Robert Duvall, who are facing youth competition from newcomer Matt Damon.

The British actor Sir Anthony Hopkins, who won an Oscar for The Silence of the Lambs in 1992, is nominated for his supporting role in Steven Spielberg's controversial slave epic Amistad.

But it is in the Best Actress category that Britain has excelled. Helena Bonham Carter received her accolade for her role in the Wings of the Dove. Julie Christie's performance in the film Afterglow and Kate Winslet's in the blockbuster Titanic were the roles which won them their entries on the list. The remaining place goes to Helen Hunt for her part in the multi-nominated As Good As It Gets.

The Full Monty is the only British entry in the category for Best Picture. The comedy about a group of unemployed Sheffield steelworkers who turn to stripping is set against As Good As It Gets, Good Will Hunting, LA Confidential, and Titanic.

Peter Cattaneo, director of The Full Monty, has also been nominated for the best director category, while writer Simon Beaufoy has been listed for his screenplay.

The adaptation of the Henry James novel The Wings of the Dove also earns a writing nomination. Hossein Amini has been shortlisted in the category for best adapted screenplay. It is also nominated for best costume design by Sandy Powell and best cinematography by Eduardo Serra.

Helena Bonham Carter said she was in a daze over her first Oscar nomination. "Deep down I'm jubilant, but I'm feeling a bit incoherent ... For any screen actor it's a dream come true to be nominated. In practical terms it means your price goes up, you get a bigger choice of parts and the most exciting thing is you get glory, acclaim and peer-group approval."

An independent film company in Londonderry was celebrating last night after being nominated for an Oscar.

Dance Lexie Dance, a Raw Nerve Production from Nerve Centre, was nominated in the live-action short film category. Pearce Moore, the film's producer, said: "With a bit of luck, this will open a few doors for us all. In the meantime, we'll be opening a few bottles."