By Estelle Shirbon
LONDON (Reuters) - Home-grown talent will feel the pressure to perform at the BAFTAs on Sunday with Daniel Day-Lewis expected to win best actor for his role in "Lincoln" and British films as diverse as "Les Miserables" and "Skyfall" up for a range of trophies.
But there could be stiff competition at Britain's top movie awards ceremony from "Argo", a drama directed by Ben Affleck about the rescue of American hostages from Iran in 1979, which has just beaten Lincoln to a clutch of prestigious U.S. prizes.
Argo has seven BAFTA nominations including for best film. The other contenders for the top honor are "Lincoln", "Les Miserables", "Life of Pi" and "Zero Dark Thirty".
Steven Spielberg's biopic of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln leads the field with 10 nominations but a sweep of statuettes may not be a foregone conclusion. The film had a disappointing Golden Globes, winning just one award out of seven nominations.
Briton Day-Lewis, hailed last year as "the world's greatest actor" on the front page of Time magazine, appears to be a safe bet for the best actor BAFTA after winning a string of U.S. awards for his performance as Lincoln. Day-Lewis is nominated for what would be his third best actor Oscar for the role.
Betting firm William Hill confirmed Day-Lewis as the runaway favorite for best actor with odds of 1/25, but in the best film category "Argo" was ahead with odds of 1/4, ahead of "Lincoln" on 9/2.
Ang Lee's visually arresting "Life of Pi", about a man and a tiger lost at sea in a small boat, has a strong chance to shine with nine BAFTA nominations including best director for the eclectic Taiwanese veteran.
"Les Miserables", the film version of a global hit stage musical, also has nine BAFTA nominations including best supporting actress for Anne Hathaway, who has been widely praised for her poignant portrayal of tragic heroine Fantine.
The latest James Bond movie, "Skyfall", is nominated in eight categories including best supporting actress for Judi Dench as the spymaster M and best supporting actor for Spanish actor Javier Bardem as the creepy villain Silva.
Despite becoming the most successful film in British box office history and winning rave reviews for its director Sam Mendes, "Skyfall" did not make the shortlist for best film or director. That was the latest in a long string of awards disappointments for the producers behind the franchise.
William Hill predicted the Bond movie would lose out to "Les Miserables" in the outstanding British film category.
ALAN PARKER HONOURED
Showcasing a totally different vein of British cinema, director Joe Wright's experimental "Anna Karenina", an adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's classic novel set against the backdrop of elaborate stage sets, is up for six BAFTAs.
Quentin Tarantino's brutal slavery-era Western "Django Unchained" and Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty", a thriller about a young CIA agent's obsessive hunt for Osama bin Laden, have five nominations apiece.
Tarantino and Bigelow, both heavy hitters among U.S. filmmakers, are both up for the best director award.
One of the other contenders for that award is Austria's Michael Haneke, nominated for "Amour", the harrowing tale of an elderly couple struggling to cope with the consequences of a stroke. The French-language film has four nominations, an unusually high number for a film not in the English language.
French actress Emanuelle Riva, 85, is nominated for the best actress BAFTA for her role in "Amour". Her rivals for the award are Helen Mirren in "Hitchcock", Jennifer Lawrence in "Silver Linings Playbook", Jessica Chastain in "Zero Dark Thirty" and Marion Cotillard in "Rust and Bone".
The contenders for best actor are Day-Lewis, Affleck in "Argo", Bradley Cooper in "Silver Linings Playbook", Hugh Jackman in "Les Miserables" and Joaquin Phoenix in "The Master".
Versatile British director Alan Parker, whose body of work ranges from child musical gangster film "Bugsy Malone" to Turkish-set prison thriller "Midnight Express" and Civil Rights drama "Mississippi Burning", will receive a BAFTA fellowship.
(Reporting By Estelle Shirbon)