Dame Helen Mirren is emerging as a strong favourite to win best actress at this year's Academy awards.

She is one of three British actresses who will be heading across the Atlantic for the prestigious ceremony next month; Kate Winslet and Judi Dench have also been nominated in the same category.

Sky Bet has cut its odds for Mirren to win from 1/10 to 1/25 after a number of four-figure punts were placed as soon as the nominees were announced yesterday afternoon.

As well as facing competition from her fellow Brits, she is also up against Penelope Cruz and Meryl Streep for best actress.

Commenting on the number of nominations for British actors and filmmakers, John Woodward, chief executive officer of the UK Film Council said: "This is a really great start to the year for the British film industry.

"[The] 15 nominations for British films and talent come on the back of a number of wins at the Golden Globes and high hopes for the forthcoming Baftas."

Martin Scorsese meanwhile and his critically-acclaimed hit The Departed are the current favourites to win best director and best film; betting agent William Hill has odds of 1/1 for best film and 1/3 for best director.

Who will emerge triumphant will be revealed on Sunday February 25th in Los Angeles.

24/01/2007 15:48:09