Kidman, Watts spark Oscars talk

Naomi Watts - Diana

Naomi Watts (as Diana, Princess of Wales) visits Australia in a scene from film Diana.
Source: Supplied

THE gold paint on Ben Affleck’s Best Picture Oscar has barely had time to dry, but already the race for the 2014 Academy Awards is on.

The confirmation last week of a December 27 release date in the US (likely to be Boxing Day in Australia) for Nicole Kidman’s Grace of Monaco sets the Grace Kelly biopic up as a leading Oscar contender.

Kidman won’t be the only Australian playing a princess who’s vying for awards. Naomi Watts’ turn as the late Princess of Wales in the movie Diana has been termed “stunning” by insiders who have seen early footage.

Grace of Monaco will be distributed in the US by The Weinstein Company – who have great Oscars form. TWC films have won the Best Actress gong two years running: Meryl Streep in 2012 for The Iron Lady and Jennifer Lawrence this year for Silver Linings Playbook.

Announcing his company’s acquisition of Grace of Monaco, Harvey Weinstein said: “Nicole Kidman’s commanding performance is the perfect portrait of a woman who was not only royalty, but who also remains a legend of the silver screen and a fashion icon.”

Nicole Kidman - Grace of Monaco

Nicole Kidman (as actor turned princess Grace Kelly) in a scene from film Grace of Monaco

Grace Kelly herself won an Oscar in 1954.

Playing Prince Rainier to Kidman’s Kelly in the movie is Britsh actor Tim Roth.

Watts has called playing Princess Di a “high, high, high risk”, but her co-star Naveen Andrews (who plays Diana’s lover, Dr Hasnat Khan) has said “no one else” could have pulled it off. Diana is eyeing a September/October release.

As usual, Streep will be in the Oscars mix – she’ll be seen in November in August: Osage County, an adaptation of the acclaimed stage play. The drama’s heavyweight cast also includes Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Naomi Watts - Diana

Naveen Andrews (as Dr Hasnat Khan) and Naomi Watts (as Diana, Princess of Wales) in a scene from film Diana.

A strong ensemble cast could also catapult The Butler into contention.

The true tale of a White House butler who served eight Presidents, it stars Forest Whitaker as the butler, Oprah Winfrey as his wife, John Cusack as Nixon, Alan Rickman and Jane Fonda as the Reagans and Robin Williams and Melissa Leo as the Eisenhowers.

Other actors gaining early Oscar heat include Leonardo DiCaprio, whose role in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street may snuff out hopes of a nomination for the Australian-made The Great Gatsby, and Tom Hanks, who plays Walt Disney in Saving Mr Banks and the titular character in Captain Phillips, about the 2009 hijacking of a US cargo ship by Somali pirates.

Last week it was announced the 2014 Academy Awards will take place on March 2 – a week later than this year, to avoid a television clash with the Winter Olympics.

Forest Whitaker - The Butler

Forest Whitaker in a scene from film The Butler.

Rumours are already circling as to who will host the ceremony, too. Leading the race so far is Justin Timberlake.

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