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Stars shine on BAFTAs

Hawn, Bening, Altman among presenters

LONDON — The turnout of Hollywood stars for Sunday’s British Academy Film Awards will be the highest ever, with Tom Hanks, Russell Crowe, Geoffrey Rush, Hilary Swank, Joaquin Phoenix, Kate Hudson and Michelle Yeoh confirmed.

That reflects the event’s greatly increased profile in its new pre-Oscar slot, where it’s being positioned as a stepping stone toward the Academy Awards.

British Academy chairman Simon Relph estimated 90% of the nominees will be present for the opening of the envelopes at the Odeon Leicester Square in the heart of London’s West End.

The only major contender who definitely won’t be there is Michael Douglas, a best actor nominee for “Wonder Boys,” who starts shooting his latest pic, “Till Death Do Us Part,” the same day. Julia Roberts, widely considered a sure thing for best actress, also may be absent owing to heavy shooting commitments, although last-minute efforts are being made to fly her over.

Fears that the production logjam caused by the possible Hollywood strikes would rob the ceremony of stars have proved largely groundless. For the first time this year, the British Academy employed someone to focus on the talent arrangements, and this attention to detail clearly has paid off.

Goldie Hawn, Annette Bening, Robert Altman, Maggie Smith and Rachel Weisz will be among presenters, with nominees Hanks, Rush, Phoenix and Swank also doing double duty at the podium.

Finney for Fellowship

Albert Finney, a supporting actor nominee for “Erin Brockovich,” will be honored with the British Academy’s Fellowship.

The BAFTA ceremony will be broadcast live via satellite by Sky. Viewing event, sponsored by Daily Variety, Miramax Films, the Savoy Group and Goldcrest Post-Production, is at 1 p.m. Sunday at Goldcrest, 799 Washington St., New York, New York. For information, call (212) 258-2651 or email baftanyoffice@aol.com.

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