The leading contenders for the British Film Academy Awards, known as the BAFTAs, are two films about American cities. ''Chicago'' and ''Gangs of New York'' received 12 nominations apiece, topping a list read by ''The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers'' star Ian McKellen in a London press conference on Monday. Close behind were ''The Hours'' (11 nominations), ''Two Towers' ' (nine nods), and ''The Pianist'' (seven nominations). In fact, the list of movies and actors is so dominated by American, Australian, New Zealand, and even Mexican names, it's no wonder the British Film Academy had to reserve a special category just for British-made movies. Even there, though, ''Hours'' slipped in; despite its predominantly American cast and setting, its director and screenwriter are English.
The BAFTAs have traditionally not been an Oscar bellwether because, until two years ago, they were handed out after the Academy Awards. It's still not clear that the BAFTAs have any influence on Oscar voters, although Russell Crowe may have misbehaved his way out of an Oscar during last year's BAFTA show. The Brits honored him for ''A Beautiful Mind,'' but after his verse-filled acceptance speech was trimmed during the telecast, he pummeled the broadcast's producer. Crowe later apologized, but the damage had apparently already been done; Oscar observers believed the brawl led Academy voters to consider the ''Gladiator'' honoree too boorish for them to grant him a second consecutive trip to the podium, instead shifting their support to class act Denzel Washington. Crowe has been invited back this year as a BAFTA presenter, though he hasn't said if he'll attend.
Actor/novelist Stephen Fry (''Wilde'') will host the BAFTA ceremony at the Odeon Theater in London on Feb. 23, 12 days after the Oscar nominations are announced and exactly a month before the Academy Awards. A partial list of nominees is below.
''Gangs of New York''
''The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers''
Outstanding British Film
''Bend It Like Beckham''
''Dirty Pretty Things''
''The Magdalene Sisters''
Achievement in Direction
''Chicago,'' Rob Marshall
''Gangs of New York,'' Martin Scorsese
''The Hours,'' Stephen Daldry
''The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,'' Peter Jackson
''The Pianist,'' Roman Polanski
''Y Tu Mamá También,'' Carlos Cuarón and Alfonso Cuarón
''Dirty Pretty Things,'' Steven Knight
''Gangs of New York,'' Jay Cocks, Steven Zaillian, and Kenneth Lonergan
''The Magdalene Sisters,'' Peter Mullan
''Talk to Her,'' Pedro Almodóvar
''About a Boy,'' Peter Hedges, Chris Weitz, andPaul Weitz
''Adaptation, '' Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman
''Catch Me If You Can,'' Jeff Nathanson
''The Hours,'' David Hare
''The Pianist,'' Ronald Harwood
Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Halle Berry, ''Monster's Ball''
Salma Hayek, ''Frida''
Nicole Kidman, ''The Hours''
Meryl Streep, ''The Hours''
Renée Zellweger, ''Chicago''
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Adrien Brody, ''The Pianist''
Michael Caine, ''The Quiet American''
Daniel Day-Lewis, ''Gangs of New York''
Jack Nicholson, ''About Schmidt''
Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Toni Collette, ''About a Boy''
Queen Latifah, ''Chicago''
Julianne Moore, ''The Hours''
Meryl Streep, ''Adaptation''
Catherine Zeta-Jones, ''Chicago''
Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Chris Cooper, ''Adaptation''
Ed Harris,''The Hours''
Alfred Molina, ''Frida''
Paul Newman, ''Road to Perdition''
Christopher Walken, ''Catch Me if You Can''
Achievement in Film Music
''Catch Me If You Can,'' John Williams
''Chicago,'' Danny Elfman, John Kander, and Fred Ebb
''Gangs of New York,'' Howard Shore
''The Hours,'' Philip Glass
''The Pianist,'' Wojciech Kilar
Film not in the English Language
''Y Tu Mamá También''
''City of God''
''Talk to Her''