If Oscar nommed, thesp would join Troisi, Tracy, Finch, Dean circle

By opening the English gangland drama “My Kingdom” Friday for a one-week Academy qualifying run at the Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills, First Look Pictures is hoping to gain the film’s star, Richard Harris, membership in a very exclusive Oscar club.

If nominated, Harris, who died Oct. 25, would become only the fifth actor to receive a posthumous best actor Oscar nom, joining Massimo Troisi (“Il Postino”), Spencer Tracy (“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”), Peter Finch (“Network”) and James Dean, who managed the feat twice, for 1955’s “East of Eden” and 1956’s “Giant.” Finch is the only winner on that list.

Variety‘s review of “My Kingdom” said, “Richard Harris is at his weariest, battle-scarred best as an aging Liverpool gang don.” And First Look president MJ Peckos hopes that kind of critical support for the late actor will translate into a nod that will help the film, first seen in the 2001 Cannes Market, eventually find its audience.

“Best actor is a money nomination, one that really counts,” she said. “It would mean a great deal for the film.”

Peckos said the company had been talking about a possible qualifying run before Harris died, and actually booked the theater two months ago.

“We decided if we were gonna do it, we had to organize our strategy because of the Academy deadlines,” she said, adding she hopes to book regular runs for the film in January or February once theater availability loosens up following the Christmas season.

Film, with which First Look has been involved since the script stage, has already opened in the U.K., earning Harris a British Film Award nom for best actor (he lost to “Bloody Sunday’s” James Nesbitt). A North American release has been the distrib’s first priority, however, and Academy attention now is part of the goal, with a “modest” ad campaign aimed at potential voters planned to start in a couple of weeks.

Harris, twice Oscar-nominated as best actor, for “This Sporting Life” (1963) and “The Field” (1990), also is eligible for a supporting actor nomination for his perf as Dumbledore in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” but Warner Bros. has no plans to launch a separate campaign for him other than as part of the film’s ensemble.

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