‘Oppenheimer’ takes early prizes as it aims for a record haul at the British Academy Film Awards


LONDON (AP) — Stars from both sides of the Atlantic and beyond converged in London Sunday for the 77th British Academy Film Awards, where atom-bomb epic “Oppenheimer” could smash a 53-year-old record 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” at the BAFTAs in 1971.

“Oppenheimer” took early trophies for editing and cinematography, as well as the best supporting actor prize for Robert Downey Jr.

Da’Vine Joy Randolph was named best supporting actress for playing a boarding school cook in “The Holdovers.”

“Oppenheimer” faced stiff competition in what’s widely considered a vintage year for cinema, and an awards season energized by the end of actors’ and writers’ strikes that shut down Hollywood for months.

Gothic fantasia “Poor Things” had 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” had nine nominations each for the prizes, officially called the EE BAFTA Film Awards.

The ceremony, hosted by “Doctor Who” star David Tennant — who entered wearing a kilt and sequined top while carrying a dog named Bark Ruffalo — is a glitzy, British-accented appetizer for Hollywood’s Academy Awards, closely watched for hints about who might win at the Oscars on March 10.

The first prize, for original screenplay, went to French courtroom drama “Anatomy of a Fall.” The film, which has seven nominations, is about a woman on trial over the death of her husband and was written by director Justine Triet and her partner, Arthur Harari.

“It’s a fiction, and we are reasonably fine,” Triet joked.

Cord Jefferson won the adapted screenplay prize for the satirical “American Fiction.”

“The Zone of Interest,” which takes place in a family home just outside the walls of Auschwitz, was named best film not in English.

“Walls aren’t new from before or since the Holocaust and it seems stark right now that we should care about innocent people being killed in Gaza or Yemen or Mariupol or Israel,” producer James Wilson said. “Thank you for recognizing a film that asks us to think in those spaces.”

Ukraine war documentary “20 Days in Mariupol,” produced by The Associated Press and PBS “Frontline,” won the prize for best documentary.

“This is not about us,” said filmmaker Mstyslav Chernov, who captured the harrowing reality of life in the besieged city with an AP team. “This is about Ukraine, about the people of Mariupol.”

Chernov said the story of the city and its fall into Russian occupation invasion “is a symbol of struggle and a symbol of faith. Thank you for empowering our voice and let’s just keep fighting.”

Other leading award contenders included “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 dramedy “Saltburn ” has five nominations.

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

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

The BAFTAs also celebrate home-grown cinema with a separate category of best British film, an eclectic slate that includes “Saltburn” – snubbed at the Oscars but embraced by the U.K. academy – alongside 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. However, Triet was the only woman among this year’s six best-director nominees.

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.”

German actress Hüller, who also was up for best supporting actress for her work in “The Zone of Interest,” said she was just “trying to be calm.”

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.”

Before the ceremony, nominees including Bradley Cooper, Carey Mulligan, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Rosamund Pike, Ryan Gosling and Ayo Edebiri all walked the red carpet at London’s Royal Festival Hall, along with presenters Andrew Scott, Cate Blanchett and David Beckham.

Guest of honor was Prince William, in his role as president of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. He arrived without his wife, Kate, who is recovering from abdominal surgery last month.

The ceremony included 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.”

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

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


Hilary Fox contributed to this story.

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