The Queen

The Contenders

Release: Oct. 6

Distributor: Miramax

The jeweled crown sits firmly upon Helen Mirren’s regal head. Her performance as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in “The Queen” has been universally praised, and with reviews that rank among the best over her 40-year-career, there’s reason to believe the beloved Brit actress might have some more bling — namely Oscar gold — to bring home come kudo night.

She is a two-time nominee, both in supporting roles for “The Madness of King George” (1994) and “Gosford Park” (2001), but didn’t win for either. Curiously, she also has never won a BAFTA nor a Golden Globe for a film performance. “The Queen” could be a fitting opportunity to break that streak.

Voters also have quite an affection for the British royalty. The 1999 Oscar derby was won by “Shakespeare in Love,” with supporting actress honors going to Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth I in the same film. That same year “Elizabeth” was also nominated, as was its star, Cate Blanchett, also playing QEI. (Worth noting is that Mirren took home the Emmy this year for HBO’s telepic “Elizabeth I,” so obviously, she channels royalty well.)

And, of course, “The Lion in Winter” (1968) was showered with seven noms, with wins for Katharine Hepburn, as Eleanor of Aquitaine, and writer James Goldman.

In addition to Mirren’s perf, Michael Sheen has received excellent notices for his incarnation of Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is forced to relate the public’s dissatisfaction to the nonplussed monarchy in its reaction to the death of Prince Charles’ estranged wife Diana — still seen as “Princess” to everyone but the royals. Sheen has tackled Blair before in the TV film “The Deal” — both times under the watchful eye of director Stephen Frears.

If the Academy is in the mindset to recognize veteran British thesps who have never won an Oscar, this too might be the right time for Sylvia Syms, who personifies the Queen Mother.

And, for that matter, there’s also 30-year American vet James Cromwell, who played a nasty Prince Philip.

On the kudo front so far, in October, “The Queen” nabbed six British Independent Film Awards noms. And in September, the Venice International Film Festival awarded Mirren, Peter Morgan for screenplay, and a special prize went to Frears.

The helmer’s impressive cinematic resume includes such pics as “The Grifters,” for which he received an Oscar nom; “High Fidelity”; “Dirty Pretty Things”; and “Mrs. Henderson Presents,” for which Dench was nominated.

Morgan may be a double threat come awards time, as he has penned two films in the running this year: “The Queen” is an original work, and “The Last King of Scotland” is adapted.

Also of note: Film editor Lucia Zucchetti’s job of splicing actual footage following Diana’s death helped re-create the British atmosphere in the summer of 1997 and may well be acknowledged in the noms.

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