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Stars, royalty and a 'Poppenheimer' showdown. Here's what to expect at Britain's BAFTA film awards

“Oppenheimer” and “Poor Things” are the leading contenders for Sunday's British Academy Film Awards

Jill Lawless
Saturday 17 February 2024 12:01 GMT

Prepare for Poppenheimer.

“Poor Things” and “Oppenheimer” are the leading contenders for the British Academy Film Awards, which will be handed out Sunday in front of an audience of filmmakers, movie stars and the heir to the British throne.

Yorgos Lanthimos’ gothic fantasia is up for 11 trophies, while Christopher Nolan’s atom-bomb epic has 13 nominations for the British prizes, known as BAFTAs. That's the same number “Oppenheimer” has for the Oscars, where it is also the frontrunner.

The ceremony at London’s Royal Festival Hall 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 beside the River Thames, along with presenters such as 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.

The show will be hosted, with a dash of self-deprecating humor, by “Doctor Who” star David Tennant.

“People keep telling me I should be terribly nervous,” Tennant said about the notoriously pitfall-plagued role of awards show host. “But it’s not like I’m up for the award. I just get to hand them out.”

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.

French courtroom drama “Anatomy of a Fall,” boarding school comedy “The Holdovers” and Leonard Bernstein biopic “Maestro” each have seven, while grief-flecked love story “All of Us Strangers” is nominated in six categories and class-war dramedy “Saltburn ” in five.

“ Barbie,” one half of 2023’s “Barbenheimer” box office juggernaut, also 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 BAFTAs and Oscars — as a major snub.

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.” Emerald Fennell for “Saltburn” and Celine Song for “Past Lives” also failed to make the list.

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.

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 Emma Stone for “Poor Things.”

No British performers are nominated in the best-actor category, but Ireland is represented by Cillian Murphy for “Oppenheimer” and Barry Keoghan for “Saltburn.” They’re up against Cooper for “Maestro,” Colman Domingo for “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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