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Sam Mendes and Florence Pugh among British Oscars hopefuls amid diversity drama

The war film took seven of the nine prizes it was nominated for at the Bafta film awards.

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Sam Mendes (Ian West/PA)

Sam Mendes (Ian West/PA)

Sam Mendes (Ian West/PA)

Sir Sam Mendes, Sir Elton John and Florence Pugh are among the British contenders hoping to take home an Oscar on Sunday – amid criticism of a lack of diversity among nominees.

Director Sir Sam will be aiming to replicate the success his film 1917 enjoyed at the Bafta film awards, where it took of the nine gongs it was nominated for, including best film, best British film, best director and best cinematography.

Sir Elton is nominated for his first Oscar since he won the best original song prize for The Lion King in 1995.

Rocketman UK Premiere – London
Elton John and Bernie Taupin (Ian West/PA)

This time he is recognised, alongside longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin, for his track I’m Gonna Love Me Again from the biopic about his life, Rocketman.

Cynthia Erivo is the only non-white contender in the acting categories, having picked up a nomination for Harriet Tubman biopic Harriet.

The ceremony has again faced criticism for a lack of diversity among nominees after the OscarsSoWhite hashtag started trending in 2015 and 2016, when there were no non-white performers recognised.

Last year three of the four acting categories were won by non-white actors.

Erivo will compete for best leading actress with Renee Zellweger for Judy, Charlize Theron for Bombshell, Saoirse Ronan for Little Women and Scarlett Johansson for Marriage Story.

Pugh is nominated for her first Oscar for her turn as Amy March in Little Women, but faces competition for the best supporting actress prize from co-star Laura Dern, who is nominated for her role in Marriage Story and has swept the category at preceding awards ceremonies.

EE British Academy Film Awards 2020 – Arrivals – London
Florence Pugh (Matt Crossick/PA)

Also recognised in the category is Kathy Bates for Richard Jewell, Johansson for Jojo Rabbit, and Margot Robbie for Bombshell.

Sir Sam is now considered a frontrunner in the directing category, despite competition from industry heavyweights Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Todd Phillips and Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho.

The British movie-maker last won the directing category in 2000 for American Beauty.

Female directors have been snubbed for a second year in a row, despite anticipation that Greta Gerwig might be recognised for Little Women.

Welsh star Jonathan Pryce is nominated in the leading actor category for The Two Popes but will have to fend off Joaquin Phoenix, who is nominated for Joker after already racking up gongs from Bafta, the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild and Critics’ Choice.

EE British Academy Film Awards 2020 – Press Room – London
Joaquin Phoenix with his Bafta (Ian West/PA)

Also nominated is Antonio Banderas for Pain And Glory, Leonardo DiCaprio for Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood and Adam Driver for Marriage Story.

Pryce’s co-star Sir Anthony Hopkins is nominated in the best supporting actor category, alongside Joe Pesci and Al Pacino for The Irishman, Tom Hanks for A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood and front runner Brad Pitt for Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood.

Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood UK Premiere – London
Brad Pitt (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Joker, Phillips’s dark exploration of a troubled loner’s descent into madness, leads the way in nominations with 11, ahead of 1917, The Irishman and Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, which have 10 each.

All four of those films are nominated for best picture, alongside Ford V Ferrari – released in the UK as Le Mans ’66 – Jojo Rabbit, Little Women, Marriage Story and Parasite.

The 92nd Academy Awards will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on February 9.

PA