'Lord of the Rings' dominates BAFTAs, wins best film award

BRITAIN: Fantasy epic  Lord Of The Rings tonight swept the board as it cast its spell at the Baftas by landing five awards - …

BRITAIN: Fantasy epic Lord Of The Rings tonight swept the board as it cast its spell at the Baftas by landing five awards - including best film.

But British-made Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone was snubbed despite landing eight nominations at the British version of the Oscars.

Dame Judi Dench landed her eighth British Academy title, just months after she was given a Bafta fellowship, winning the best actress prize for her performance in Iris.

Dame Judi, who is up for an Oscar for the role, beat Nicole Kidman - who attended the event in a revealing black velvet dress - as well as Sissy Spacek and Renee Zellweger to the award.

In the film she gave a heart-rending portrayal of the Irish-born writer Iris Murdoch.

The New Zealand actor Russell Crowe, an Oscar winner last year, triumphed in the best actor category - beating Lord Of The Rings star Sir Ian McKellen to the prize. He played a schizophrenic maths genius, John Nash, in the acclaimed film A Beautiful Mind and his co-star Jennifer Connelly took the best supporting actor prize.

The Rings haul also included a best director prize for Peter Jackson, and the Orange audience award which is voted for by cinemagoers. It completed its cache with technical prizes, special effects and make-up.

It is a huge vote of confidence for Lord Of The Rings which was one of the biggest leaps of faith in cinema history.

Producers invested £125 million in making all three films in the JRR Tolkien trilogy at once. If the first had failed at the box office, it would have proved a disaster.

Harry Potter has taken a fortune at the box office and is now the second most successful film of all time, behind Titanic.

But the movie about the teenage wizard failed to perform its magic over Bafta judges, and it also missed out in the audience award for which it had been nominated.

Flamboyant turn-of-the-century musical Moulin Rouge - which like Rings was up for 13 awards - landed three prizes. They were for Jim Broadbent's best supporting actor performance, best sound and best music.

Broadbent is up for an Oscar next month as best supporting actor for his role in Iris.

Gosford Park, the comic period drama made by US director Robert Altman but financed from Britain, was named outstanding British film of the year. It also took the prize for best costume design.

The Orange British Academy Film Awards is one of the most glamorous events in the prize-giving calendar and draws a list of top name guests. They included Kevin Spacey, Harvey Keitel and Colin Firth. They braved a chilly rain-lashed London to attend the ceremony at the Odeon in London's Leicester Square.

The US director and actor Warren Beatty was given an academy fellowship along with the production team Merchant Ivory.

Eon Productions, which has created the series of Bond movies and is currently working on the 20th, was given a special award. - (PA)