Chicago favourite for Oscar scoop

Hit musical Chicago led the Oscar race today with 13 nominations – including one for British star Catherine Zeta Jones.

Hit musical Chicago led the Oscar race today with 13 nominations – including one for British star Catherine Zeta Jones.

She is up for best supporting actress, one of a clutch of Brits in with a chance of triumphing at this year’s Academy Awards.

Daniel Day-Lewis and Sir Michael Caine will vie for the best actor award, while director Stephen Daldry was nominated for his film The Hours.

Chicago, The Hours and Gangs Of New York dominated today’s nominations, as predicted.

All are contenders for best film, along with The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers and Roman Polanski’s Holocaust saga The Pianist.

Chicago’s 13 nominations include best actress for Renee Zellweger and best director for Rob Marshall.

Welsh star Zeta Jones, 33 - who yesterday took centre stage in her High Court battle with Hello! magazine - is up against co-star Queen Latifah in the best supporting actress category, as well as Oscars regular Meryl Streep for Adaptation.

Gangs Of New York, Martin Scorsese’s epic about gang warfare in the slums of 19th century Manhattan, picked up 10 nominations while The Hours got nine.

Sir Michael Caine was nominated for his role in the Graham Greene adaptation, The Quiet American, in which he plays a journalist in 1950s Vietnam.

The 69-year-old actor has twice won the best supporting actor Oscar - for The Cider House Rules in 2000 and Hannah And Her Sisters in 1987 - but never best actor.

“It’s been a long, long journey,” he said today. “I just wanted to see whether I could get a nomination. And I’ve got one, I’m happy now and my work is done.”

Sir Michael said he would “hold out hope” of winning despite the tough competition from Adrien Brody in The Pianist, Nicolas Cage for Adaptation, Day-Lewis for Gangs Of New York and Jack Nicholson for About Schmidt.

He joked: “I get the difficult year, don’t I? I don’t get an easy year, I get four geniuses.”

Nicholson is the bookmakers’ favourite after winning a Golden Globe for the same role last month.

In the black comedy About Schmidt he plays a grumpy widower who sets out on a road trip following the death of his wife.

It is the 65-year-old actor’s 12th nomination – making him the most nominated male performer in Academy history.

A win would put him in the company of Katharine Hepburn who is the only performer with four Oscars.

But Day-Lewis is also in with a good chance after his performance as evil gang boss Bill The Butcher earned him huge critical acclaim.

Day-Lewis, 45, who won the best actor award in 1990 for My Left Foot, said the nomination had “made my day”.

He heard the news while in Ireland and said: “It’s very beautiful here in Ireland and this has made my day.”

The Hours star Nicole Kidman is favourite to take home the best actress award for her portrayal of novelist Virginia Woolf.

She is up against Zellweger, Salma Hayek for Frida, Diane Lane for Unfaithful and Julianne Moore for Far From Heaven.

The Hours co-stars Moore and Meryl Streep and tells the stories of three women whose lives are connected by Woolf’s work.

Kidman, 35, in London to promote the film, described her nomination as “slightly surreal” and “a bit scary” – admitting she hid away with a friend drinking coffee while the nominations were announced because it was “too much pressure”.

She added: “For a film like this, if you can have the acknowledgement and the critical respect that we’ve been so fortunate to get, it’s such a blessing.”

Daldry – who missed out on the best director award in 2000 for Billy Elliot - said he was “delighted” The Hours had done so well.

Amongst its 10 nominations were best adapted screenplay for Sir David Hare, who wrote The Blue Room in which Kidman famously stripped off.

Moore is nominated for best supporting actress, to add to her best actress nomination for the 1950s melodrama Far From Heaven.

Should the 42-year-old win both categories, she will become the first performer in Academy Awards history to receive two competitive acting Oscars in one year.

Elsewhere, Hugh Grant’s comedy About A Boy is in the running for best adapted screenplay.

U2 could pick up an Oscar for best original song for The Hands That Built America, which features on the soundtrack of Gangs Of New York.

And veteran Irish actor Peter O’Toole will be awarded this year’s honorary Oscar.

But the 70-year-old star – who has been nominated seven times but never won - has written to the Academy asking if they could defer it until he is 80 to give him a chance of winning the best actor award.

One notable omission from the list was Richard Gere, who won a best actor Golden Globe for Chicago but failed to get an Oscars mention.

The nominations for the 75th Academy Awards, to be held next month, were announced at a dawn press conference in Los Angeles by actress Marisa Tomei.

Bookmakers Ladbrokes immediately installed Chicago as 4/7 favourite to take the best picture Oscar, Nicole Kidman to win best actress, Jack Nicholson to win best actor and Martin Scorsese to take home the award for best director.

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