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LONDON (Reuters) - Film romance "Atonement" dominated the field when nominations were announced on Wednesday for the annual BAFTA film awards.
The World War Two epic about two lovers torn apart by a family betrayal boasted 14 nominations for the British Academy Film Awards with its stars Keira Knightley and James McAvoy both up for top acting honors.
"Atonement" is also up for Best Film but could face some tough competition from Ridley Scott's "American Gangster," the grim crime thriller "No Country for Old Men," "There Will Be Blood" and "The Lives Of Others."
In the Leading Actor category, McAvoy faces a sizeable challenge from Daniel Day-Lewis, who portrays an oil prospector who gains enormous wealth in "There Will Be Blood."
Also up for Leading Actor are Hollywood heart-throb George Clooney for "Michael Clayton," Viggo Mortensen for "Eastern Promise" and Ulrich Muhe for "The Lives of Others."
Keira Knightley faces an equally tough battle for the Leading Actress award.
She is pitted against Cate Blanchett in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," veteran star Julie Christie as an Alzheimer's sufferer in "Away from Her," Marion Cotillard for her haunting portrayal of singer Edith Piaf in "La Vie En Rose" and Ellen Page for "Juno."
Amid fears that a writers' strike could jeopardize this year's Oscars ceremony, the red carpet BAFTA show at London's Royal Opera House on February 10 could attract plenty of Hollywood glamour.
Last weekend's strike-plagued Golden Globe awards were stripped down to a bare-bones news conference lacking all the usual Hollywood razzmatazz. It was a big flop in telecast ratings.
BAFTA Academy chairman Hilary Bevan Jones told Reuters at the nominations ceremony: "Life is very difficult at the moment for those in Hollywood. As far as we are concerned, with BAFTA there is no dispute over here."
"It is a concerning time. We need to get this issue sorted and hopefully they will be sorted soon."
Asked if the BAFTAs might now end up being the movie world's big awards ceremony of the year, she said: "I would hate to think about benefiting from somebody else's misfortunes."
Editing by Kate Kelland and Paul Casciato