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McQueen film set for Bafta success
Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave continued its award season success by picking up 10 nominations at the Baftas.
The movie, which is heavily tipped for the Oscars, picked up nominations for McQueen and three of its stars and is in the running to be named best film.
Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays a free man kidnapped and sold into slavery in America's deep south, is nominated for the leading actor gong while co-stars Lupita Nyong'o and Michael Fassbender are nominated for supporting actress and actor respectively.
Ejiofor, who grew up in London, said: " I continue to be immensely proud of the recognition this film is getting around the world. There is, of course, something particularly special about receiving a Bafta nomination from home."
Nyong'o's nomination comes days after she was named among the contenders for Bafta's rising star award which is decided by public vote.
Bookmakers immediately installed Ejiofor as favourite to win his category with odds of 1-4 and made 12 Years A Slave favourite to be named best film.
William Hill spokesman Joe Crilly said: " There is traditionally a slight British bias when it comes to the Baftas , however Ejiofor's performance in 12 Years is so mesmeric that there needn't be this year.
"He is virtually nailed on to win the Bafta."
The other contenders for best film include Philomena, Captain Phillips, American Hustle and Gravity.
Ejiofor faces competition for the leading actor gong from veteran Bruce Dern for his role in Nebraska and Hollywood stars Christian Bale, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.
Today's nominations were announced at Bafta's HQ in central London by Hobbit star Luke Evans and Helen McCrory from the Harry Potter films.
Dame Judi Dench is nominated for the leading actress award for her role in Philomena which is based on the true story of a woman's search for the son she was forced to give up for adoption in 1950s Ireland.
She is in the running with American Hustle's Amy Adams, Cate Blanchett, Emma Thompson and Sandra Bullock for Gravity.
Film critic Mark Kermode said he expected the outer space drama to provide the main competition to 12 Years A Slave for prizes.
He said: "The nice surprise has been, in the case of 12 Years A Slave, not only has it been nominated for best film, best director, you've got a best supporting actor nomination for Lupita Nyong'o, who's terrific, and just a couple of days ago got a nomination for the Bafta Rising Star award so that's two nominations for her. Great to see Chiwetel Ejiofor nominated for best actor, his performance is absolutely outstanding, although he's up against Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips - that's going to be a pretty tough title fight.
"When it comes to wins you're looking at 12 Years A Slave and Gravity. American Hustle has done well numerically in the nominations, I'd be surprised if it did as well when it comes to the awards themselves."
The event, formally known as the EE British Academy Film Awards, is held in London on Sunday February 16.
Other nominees for best supporting actor include Bradley Cooper and Matt Damon along with Captain Phillips star Barkhad Abdi and Daniel Bruhl who played Niki Lauda in Formula 1 film Rush.
Also recognised was American chatshow host Oprah Winfrey who is nominated for best supporting actress for her role in The Butler.
That category also sees Jennifer Lawrence and Julia Roberts nominated along with Sally Hawkins for her role in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine.
McQueen faces competition for the best director award from big names including Paul Greengrass and Martin Scorsese.
Comic and actor Steve Coogan is nominated for best adapted screenplay for his work with Jeff Pope on Philomena.
Kelly Marcel, who is due to write the script for the forthcoming 50 Shades Of Grey film, is among the nominees for the outstanding debut award for her work on Saving Mr Banks, about the making of Mary Poppins.
Also nominated in that category are Colin Carberry and Glenn Patterson who wrote Good Vibrations - the true story of Terri Hooley who ran a record shop in Belfast at the height of the Troubles.
American filmmaker Alex Gibney is nominated twice in the best documentary category for his films about drug cheat cyclist Lance Armstrong and whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.
Gravity leads the pack in number of nominations with 11, one ahead of both 12 Years A Slave and American Hustle.
Tessa Ross, controller of film and drama at Channel 4 which has helped fund McQueen's last three films, said: " With Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave receiving ten nominations and so much recognition for British talent this is certainly a proud moment for British film. Congratulations to all of our nominees, Film4 is privileged to have supported them on their journey. The very best of luck to everybody."
Coogan said: " Philomena has been a labour of love. To make a film with the very best people, where comedy and pathos sit side by side is not easy. We all wanted to make something sincere and uncynical without being naive. To have it acknowledged by Bafta is very satisfying."
McQueen said: " I was so excited to wake up in New York to news of ten Bafta nominations for 12 Years A Slave. It's such an incredible honour to receive this recognition, especially from my peers back home."