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The Sunday Times - Britain

The Sunday Times February 19, 2006

‘Cinderella’ Weisz in prizewinning form

IT has taken 20 years but Rachel Weisz, now one of Britain’s leading screen actresses, may be about to get the official acclaim she has long deserved, writes Richard Brooks.

She goes into tonight’s Orange Bafta awards ceremony as favourite to win best actress for her role in The Constant Gardener, a film adaptation of a John le Carré novel. If she scoops the award it will be her second in as many months after winning best supporting actress at the Golden Globes in Los Angeles.

The 34-year-old actress, who is six months pregnant, has also been nominated for an Oscar for her role as an activist in the thriller, which centres on corrupt pharmaceutical companies and their dealings in Africa. Victory tonight would confirm her status as one of Britain’s top movie stars. She has past roles in The Mummy, Enemy at the Gates and About a Boy, but until now she has never quite made the same league, in terms of celebrity, as actresses such as Kate Winslet and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

The Constant Gardener has been nominated for 10 Baftas but, along with best actress, may only pick up only one other significant prize, the Alexander Korda award for outstanding British film.

The movie, which also stars Ralph Fiennes, was directed by a Brazilian and shot mainly overseas, though its funding is British, including money from the UK Film Council.

Despite the fact that nearly all the 6,500 Bafta members are British, most of them judge films and performances on merit rather than nationality. So it would be a surprise if Brokeback Mountain, the film chronicling the 20-year relationship of two gay cowboys, does not win best film and the best director award for Ang Lee.

Best actor tips are Philip Seymour Hoffman for his portrayal of the writer Truman Capote in Capote, or David Strathairn as the American broadcaster Ed Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck.

George Clooney is, unusually, nominated as best director for Good Night, And Good Luck as well as supporting roles in the same film and separately in Syriana. It is thought unlikely that the actor, who first made his name as a doctor in the television series ER, will walk away empty-handed.

“These days the Baftas are taken much more seriously and are second only to the Oscars,” said Sir Alan Parker, the award winning film director. “They’re taken much more seriously mainly because they now come before the Oscars so they are seen also as a very good guide as to who might win Oscars.”

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