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'Oppenheimer' aims for a record haul as stars shine at the British Academy Film Awards

Atom-bomb epic “Oppenheimer” could smash records at the British Academy Film Awards if it makes good on its field-leading 13 nominations

Jill Lawless
Sunday 18 February 2024 10:45 GMT

Atom-bomb epic “Oppenheimer” could smash a 53-year-old record at the British Academy Film Awards on Sunday if it makes good on its field-leading 13 nominations.

Christopher Nolan ’s biopic of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer is up for trophies including best film, best director and best actor for star Cillian Murphy. A good night could see it surpass the record nine awards won by “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” in 1971.

It faces stiff competition from Gothic fantasia “Poor Things,” which has 11 nominations including best film, director for Yorgos Lanthimos and actress for Emma Stone. Historical epic “Killers of the Flower Moon” and Holocaust drama “ The Zone of Interest” have nine nominations each for the prizes, officially called the EE BAFTA Film Awards.

“ Barbie,” one half of 2023’s “Barbenheimer” box office juggernaut and the year’s top-grossing film, has five nominations but missed out on nods for best picture and best director. Many see the omission of “Barbie” director Greta Gerwig — for both the BAFTAs and the Oscars — as a major snub.

The ceremony, hosted by “Doctor Who” star David Tennant, will be a glitzy, British-accented appetizer for Hollywood’s Academy Awards, closely watched for hints about who might win at the Oscars on March 10.

Nominees including Bradley Cooper, Carey Mulligan, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Rosamund Pike, Ryan Gosling and Ayo Edebiri are expected on the red carpet at London’s Royal Festival Hall, along with presenters that include Andrew Scott, Cate Blanchett, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Idris Elba.

Guest of honor will be Prince William, in his role as president of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. He’ll be without his wife, Kate, who is recovering after abdominal surgery last month.

Other leading contenders include French courtroom drama “Anatomy of a Fall,” boarding school coming-of-age drama “The Holdovers” and Leonard Bernstein biopic “Maestro” — each with seven nominations — and grief-flecked love story “All of Us Strangers” with six. Barbed class-war comedy “Saltburn ” has five nominations.

The best film race pits “Oppenheimer” against “Poor Things,” “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “Anatomy of a Fall” and “The Holdovers.”

“Poor Things” is also on the 10-strong list for the separate category of best British film, an eclectic slate that includes class-war dramedy “Saltburn,” imperial epic “Napoleon,” south London romcom “Rye Lane” and chocolatier origin story “Wonka,” among others.

Britain’s film academy introduced changes to increase the awards’ diversity in 2020, when no women were nominated as best director for the seventh year running and all 20 nominees in the lead and supporting performer categories were white. But there is only one woman among the six best-director nominees: Justine Triet for “Anatomy of a Fall.” Gerwig, Emerald Fennell for “Saltburn” and Celine Song for star-crossed romance “Past Lives” all failed to make the list.

A woman of color could take the best actress BAFTA for the first time, with Fantasia Barrino for “The Color Purple” and Vivian Oparah for “Rye Lane” nominated alongside Sandra Hüller for “Anatomy of a Fall,” Mulligan for “Maestro,” Margot Robbie for “Barbie” and Stone for “Poor Things.”

No British performers are nominated in the best-actor category, but Ireland is represented by Murphy for “Oppenheimer” and Barry Keoghan for “Saltburn.” They’re up against Cooper for “Maestro,” Colman Domingo for civil rights biopic “Rustin,” Paul Giamatti for “The Holdovers” and Teo Yoo for “Past Lives.”

Harrowing Ukraine war documentary “20 Days in Mariupol,” produced by The Associated Press and PBS “Frontline,” is nominated for best documentary and best film not in the English language.

The ceremony is set to include musical performances by “Ted Lasso” star Hannah Waddingham and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, the latter singing her 2001 hit “Murder on the Dancefloor,” which shot back up the charts after featuring in “Saltburn.”

Samantha Morton will receive the academy’s highest honor, the BAFTA Fellowship, and film curator June Givanni, founder of the June Givanni PanAfrican Cinema Archive, will be honored for outstanding British contribution to cinema.

Sunday’s ceremony will be broadcast on BBC One in the U.K. from 1900GMT, and on streaming service BritBox in the U.S., Canada, Australia and South Africa.

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