By Mike Collett-White
LONDON (Reuters) - Silent movie "The Artist" made itself heard on the awards circuit on Tuesday, leading the field with 12 BAFTA nominations.
The French black-and-white comedy, a homage to the "pre-talkie" era set in 1920s and 1930s Hollywood, was shortlisted for best film, actor, actress, director and original screenplay by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
It maintains its momentum a week before the Oscar nominations are announced and after last weekend's triumph at the Golden Globes when it scooped three prizes.
The BAFTA record for predicting Academy Awards is patchy, but it is Britain's top film honor and the most closely watched outside the United States.
The Artist, about a silent movie star whose career collapses with the advent of sound, was one ahead of Cold War-era spy movie "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" which garnered 11 nominations.
The adaptation of John Le Carre's classic espionage thriller was up for best film, director, adapted screenplay and actor, enjoying more success in Britain than it has so far in the U.S. awards calendar.
"Hugo," Martin Scorsese's family adventure, scored nine BAFTA nominations followed by "My Week With Marilyn" with six, and five each for "The Help" and "War Horse."
STREEP EYES THE PRIZE
As expected, Meryl Streep made it on to the shortlist for best actress for her portrayal of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady." She is heavily favored to land an Academy Award for the performance.
Streep is up against Berenice Bejo (The Artist), Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn), Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin) and Viola Davis (The Help).
The best actor category is made up of Brad Pitt (Moneyball), Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), George Clooney (The Descendants), Jean Dujardin (The Artist) and Michael Fassbender (Shame).
Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, who presented the nominations on Tuesday, was not shy about declaring his personal favorite for the acting prize.
"I'd love Gary Oldman to get one for 'Tinker Tailor', because he's fantastic and it's a great film," he said.
The best picture award will either go to The Artist, The Descendants, Drive, The Help or Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Film critics said this year's competition was more open than 2011, when the hot favorites were "The King's Speech," which went on to win seven BAFTAs and four Oscars, and "The Social Network."
"That's a really interesting field," critic Mark Kermode said of the best picture lineup.
"Remember last year when it was very much 'The King's Speech' year ... I think it's great to see a year in which it really shows the diversity of film."
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2," the last of eight instalments in the record-breaking boy wizard franchise, garnered four nominations -- make up & hair, production design, sound and special visual effects.
Supporters of the films have long complained that the hugely successful adventures are overlooked in major award categories, and Tuesday's announcement was unlikely to appease them.
The BAFTA awards, sponsored by mobile phone operator Orange, will be handed out on February 12 at London's Royal Opera House.
Scorsese will receive a BAFTA Fellowship celebrating his life in cinema, and is also nominated as best director for Hugo and for his documentary "George Harrison: Living in the Material World."
(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)