British stars vie for British Academy of BAFTA glory ahead of Oscars

British scientist Stephen Hawking (left) and his daughter Lucy Hawking (right) arrive on the red carpet for the 2015 British Academy Film Awards ceremony at The Royal Opera House in London, Britain on Sunday. The ceremony is hosted by the British Aca
British scientist Stephen Hawking (left) and his daughter Lucy Hawking (right) arrive on the red carpet for the 2015 British Academy Film Awards ceremony at The Royal Opera House in London, Britain on Sunday. The ceremony is hosted by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). -- PHOTO: EPA

LONDON (AFP) - Britain's cinema industry held its biggest night of the year on Sunday, with Oscar-nominated actors like Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch and Rosamund Pike among those vying for the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) awards.

They were joined by Felicity Jones and Keira Knightley, who are also headed to Los Angeles later this month as part of what some are describing as a "British invasion" of Hollywood.

The presenters include Tom Cruise, David Beckham and Stephen Hawking, the theoretical physicist and wheelchair-bound motor neurone disease sufferer who is the subject of The Theory of Everything.

Redmayne, whose performance as Hawking has been critically acclaimed, told reporters on the red carpet that he had been "galvanised" by the idea of raising awareness about Hawking's disease.

"Our dream as actors is to tell interesting stories about interesting people and they don't come more interesting than this," he said.

Two of the favourites for best film - Alejandro Inarritu's Birdman and Richard Linklater's Boyhood - hail from the United States but the focus of the night will be on home-grown talent.

Jones, who is still awaiting her big break, is nominated for her role as Hawking's wife Jane.

She and Pike, nominated for Gone Girl, face stiff competition for best actress from US stars Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Amy Adams (Big Eyes) and Reese Witherspoon (Wild).

Pike said that her role had been a test of versatility, playing a woman who is at once "sexy and fun-loving" and "manipulative".

Cumberbatch, who plays World War II codebreaker Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, and Redmayne are the two names to watch for best actor.

The two were among the British cinema movers and shakers who partied on Saturday in Kensington Palace - the London home of Prince William and his wife Kate - and producer Harvey Weinstein will be hosting a bash after the ceremony.

"Britain has had a great year across the board, across writers, producers, actors and directors. It's a very, very good time," Cumberbatch said.

A controversy over the biopic Selma about Martin Luther King starring British actor David Oyelowo has clouded preparations for the BAFTAs.

Oyelowo said the fact that the film had not been nominated sent "an odd message" but the British Academy said the movie was delivered too late.

Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel is in the lead for nominations with a total of 11, one ahead of Birdman and The Theory of Everything.

Ralph Fiennes is also nominated for best actor for his role as an eccentric concierge in The Grand Budapest Hotel, Michael Keaton as an out-of-luck actor in Birdman and Jake Gyllenhaal, the shady paparazzo in the thriller Nightcrawler.

Pregnant star Keira Knightley, who rose to fame with the British romantic comedy Love Actually and alongside Johnny Depp in the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean, is in the running for best supporting actress for The Imitation Game.