'King,' 'Queen' reign in BIFA noms

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LONDON -- An eclectic mix of acting talent ranging from "The Last King of Scotland" co-stars Forest Whitaker and James McAvoy to veteran Peter O'Toole ("Venus") find themselves in the mix for the best actor award at the ninth annual British Independent Film Awards, organizers said Wednesday.

Whitaker, O'Toole and McAvoy will take on Cillian Murphy ("The Wind That Shakes the Barley") and Tony Curran ("Red Road") in the race for the acting prize, one of 17 plaudits to be dished out at a Nov. 29 ceremony at London's Hammersmith Palais.

Stephen Frears' "The Queen" dominates the main award categories with nominations for best director, best British independent film and Helen Mirren's turn in the title role. Other films gathering multiple nominations include "Last King" and Shane Meadows' "This Is England."

Frears will battle it out with Kevin Macdonald ("Scotland"), Michael Caton Jones ("Shooting Dogs"), Meadows ("This Is England") and Ken Loach ("Barley") for best director plaudits.

To secure the best British Independent film award, "The Queen" will have to reign over Andrea Arnold's "Red Road," "This Is England," "Last King" and "Barley."

Aiming to beat Mirren ("The Queen") to the punch in the best actress category are Robin Wright Penn and Juliette Binoche from Anthony Minghella's "Breaking and Entering." They'll be joined in their challenge by Kate Dickie ("Red Road") and Frances De La Tour ("The History Boys").

The best supporting actor/actress category sees veteran stage and screen actor Leslie Phillips ("Venus") vie with fellow "Venus" star Vanessa Redgrave, previous BIFA winner Martin Compston ("Red Road") and Joseph Gilgun and Stephen Graham, both from "This Is England."

Best screenplay will go to either Alan Bennett ("History Boys"), Peter Morgan ("The Queen"), Hanif Kureishi ("Venus"), Shane Meadows ("This Is England") or Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock ("Scotland").

This year's Richard Harris outstanding contribution by an actor to British film award has yet to be announced, organizers said.

November's event also sees the third year of the Raindance award for independent film, with the winner coming from "The Ballad of AJ Weberman," "London to Brighton" and "Scenes of a Sexual Nature," organizers said.

Established by the British film industry and now in its ninth year, the awards aim to honor the U.K. independent film community with prizes voted on by select juries of filmmakers.

The winners will be chosen by a jury made up of veteran industry executives and talent. Chaired by Sandy Lierberson, the jury includes Anna Friel, Mick Jones, Damian Lewis, Damien O'Donnell and Colin Salmon.

Lieberson announced the nominations at a Wednesday ceremony.

The Special Jury Prize will be disclosed on the evening of the awards.

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