William gives Queen Helen a Bafta

Halstead Gazette: Helen Mirren is to be honoured by Bafta with its highest award Helen Mirren is to be honoured by Bafta with its highest award

The queen of British cinema will get the royal seal of approval at this year's Baftas when the Duke of Cambridge presents Dame Helen Mirren with the Fellowship award.

Dame Helen - who has played the monarch on stage and screen and won the leading actress Oscar in 2007 for The Queen - joins other winners of the prestigious award including Martin Scorsese and Sir Christopher Lee.

The event, at London's Royal Opera House in Covent Garden tomorrow, is hosted by Stephen Fry with big name guests including Leonardo DiCaprio, Uma Thurman and Tom Hanks.

It i s widely seen as a dry run for next month's Oscars and Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave is tipped to continue its award season success.

The film, which stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as a free man kidnapped and sold into slavery in America's deep south, has 10 nominations including for best film and best director.

Ejiofor is nominated for the leading actor award while co-stars Lupita Nyong'o and Michael Fassbender are nominated for supporting actress and actor.

London-born Ejiofor said there was " something particularly special about receiving a Bafta nomination from home".

He faces competition for the leading actor award from veteran Bruce Dern for his role in Nebraska and Hollywood stars Christian Bale, DiCaprio and Hanks.

The other contenders for best film are Philomena, Captain Phillips, American Hustle and Gravity.

Philomena also gets Dame Judi Dench a nomination f or the leading actress award for her role as the title character whose sea rch for the son she was forced to give up for adoption in 1950s Ireland inspired the film.

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.

"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."

Other nominees for best supporting actor are 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 is American chatshow host Oprah Winfrey who is nominated for best supporting actress for her role in The Butler.

That category 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 has written 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.

The event, formally known as the EE British Academy Film Awards, is broadcast on BBC1.

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