British bookmakers have been forced to stop taking OSCAR bets five days before the big night (29FEB04) because of the overwhelming support for hotly-tipped favourite The Lord Of The Rings: THE RETURN OF THE KING.

The final chapter of the JRR TOLKIEN trilogy - which has already dominated a host of awards ceremonies - is now an unprecedented 1/12 for the Best Picture prize, making it the hottest favourite in history.

Money has continued to pour in for Peter Jackson's movie and bookmakers LADBROKES cut the odds on it winning to 1/12 from 1/6 following success at Sunday's Screen Actors Guild AWARDS.

Ladbrokes spokesman WARREN LUSH says, "We have been forced to close the book on the Oscars, everybody thinks that this is one film to rule them all.

"If the unthinkable happens and another film conquers Middle Earth and scoops Best Picture it would be the biggest upset in the history of the Academy."

29/02/2004 14:11