Among the 2013 British Independent Film Award nominees, only one has a truly good chance of being shortlisted for both the BAFTAs and the Academy Awards. That's Best Actress BIFA nominee Judi Dench for Stephen Frears' "based on a true story" drama Philomena, in which Dench plays a woman whose son was taken away from her after she was sent to a convent. For the record, Dench has four previous Best Actress Oscar nominations (Mrs. Brown, Iris, Mrs. Henderson Presents, Notes on a Scandal), in addition to one win and a nomination as Best Supporting Actress (win: Shakespeare in Love; nomination: Chocolat). (Photo: Judi Dench as Philomena Lee in Philomena.)
Needless to say, the British Independent Film Awards have little influence on North America's awards-season favorites. There are a number of reasons for that — e.g., little-known nominated movies, performers, and directors that are ignored by starry-eyed critics' groups, foreign press associations, guilds, and academies; lack of or minimal U.S. distribution; lack of or minimal awards-season marketing; and/or belated U.S. releases. That last item refers to movies such as Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin, starring British Independent Film Award nominee Scarlett Johansson, and which opens in the United States only in 2014. In fact, each year a number of BIFA nominees — with luck — find distribution in the UK only the year after the nominations.
'Philomena' screenplay, Kristin Scott Thomas
Apart from shoo-in Judi Dench, one reasonably strong possibility is a Best Adapted Screenplay nod for Philomena's Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, who transferred Martin Sixsmith's book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee to the screen. Additionally, there's the (more modest) chance of a Best Picture nod for Philomena and of a Best Supporting Actress nod for Kristin Scott Thomas for her performance in Ralph Fiennes' period drama The Invisible Woman. That's about it.
Best Actor BIFA nominee Steve Coogan has a lesser chance of being shortlisted for Philomena in the United States, but will probably land a BAFTA nod — much like Philomena should be shortlisted in the BAFTAs Best British Film category. In the U.S., chances are Coogan will go the way of James McAvoy in The Last King of Scotland and Gordon Pinsent in Away from Her; both McAvoy and Pinsent were duly ignored in North America, whereas their better-known co-stars Forest Whitaker and Julie Christie, respectively, were shortlisted by just about every single North American awards-giving group.
But then again, one can't completely write off (actor) Steve Coogan. Not when he and his Philomena movie have The Weinstein Company's fearless and relentless awards-season — read: Academy Awards — army backing them up. I mean, how many Oscar pundits were expecting David O. Russell's The Weinstein Company-distributed Silver Linings Playbook — starring Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, and Jackie Weaver — to be shortlisted in all four of the Academy Awards' acting categories?
Academy Awards vs. British Independent Film Awards: Nominees in the acting categories
Since the British Independent Film Awards' inception in 1998, the following nominees / winners in the acting categories have gone on to receive Academy Award nominations:
- Gary Oldman for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
- Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, and Geoffrey Rush for The King's Speech;
- Carey Mulligan for An Education;
- Viggo Mortensen for Eastern Promises;
- Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland;
- Peter O'Toole for Venus;
- Helen Mirren for The Queen;
- Rachel Weisz for The Constant Gardener;
- Judi Dench for Mrs. Henderson Presents;
- Imelda Staunton for Vera Drake;
- Samantha Morton for In America;
- Ben Kingsley for Sexy Beast.
Of the above, four (Colin Firth, Forest Whitaker, Helen Mirren, and Rachel Weisz) eventually took home Oscar statuettes.
Note: Months after they had been shortlisted for Academy Awards, Meryl Streep was nominated for a Best Actress BIFA for The Iron Lady; Judi Dench won a Best Actress BIFA while Cate Blanchett was nominated for Best Supporting Actor/Actress for Notes on a Scandal; Ian McKellen won Best Actor for Gods and Monsters; and Emily Watson won Best Actress and Rachel Griffiths was nominated for Best Supporting Actor/Actress for Hilary and Jackie.
To date, only two British Independent Film Award winners have gone on to earn matching Academy Award nominations: Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire and Tom Hooper's The King's Speech. Both movies also took home the Best Picture Oscar in, respectively, early 2009 and early 2011.
Judi Dench as Philomena Lee in Philomena movie photo: The Weinstein Company.