Bella Emberg: Tributes as ‘huge comedy talent’ dies

Bella Emberg

Tributes have been paid to the “huge comedy talent” Bella Emberg, who has died, aged 80.

The British actress will be remembered for her character Blunder Woman, the comic sidekick of hapless superhero Cooperman in the 1980s television programme The Russ Abbot Show.

She was “a woman of immense warmth and generosity”, Abbot said.

Emberg also appeared on The Benny Hill Show, Z Cars, and Doctor Who in a television career spanning six decades.

“She was not only a great sport but a huge comedy talent. I count myself very lucky to have worked alongside her,” Abbot added.

“She really was a one off.”

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Actor Les Dennis paid tribute to his “funny, lovely friend”, while friend and pianist Bobby Crush described her as a “truly gentle soul”.

The “funniest fairy”, comedy actor Paul Chuckle added, as her agent said she would be “greatly missed”.

Emberg had just finished filming a new Sky One comedy, In the Long Run, created by Idris Elba and due to be released later this year.

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Sigrid interview: ‘Making pop is like a treasure hunt’

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“My vision is to make interesting pop music that has a nerve to it”

“Writing a good pop tune is difficult,” says Sigrid, the Norwegian pop star who’s just won the BBC’s Sound of 2018.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s a good one – and when you find that one brilliant hook, it’s the best feeling.”

The 21-year-old only started writing music four years ago, when her brother – who’s also a musician – invited her to play a show with him, on the condition she stopped playing Adele covers.

“I guess he figured out I had something in me, and I just needed that little push,” she told the BBC earlier this year.

It certainly worked.

The then-teenager’s first song, Sun, was playlisted on Norway’s national radio station and, after a brief break to finish school, her next set of demos sparked a record label bidding war.

Media captionSigrid tells us about her childhood and performs a rare acoustic version of Strangers.

Island Records got the gig after pursuing the singer around Bergen; and launched Sigrid’s international career with last year’s exuberant and kooky and charismatic Don’t Kill My Vibe EP.

The title track is her calling card. Inspired by a disastrous recording session in London where older, male producers patronised and demoralised her, it’s a defiantly upbeat anthem to her own strength.

It’s given her the opportunity to play around the world; bowling over audiences with her charismatically uninhibited performances (she is, to put it mildly, from the Lorde school of dancing).

Immediately after being told she’d won the Sound of 2018, Sigrid sat down with BBC News to discuss circuses, socks and the elusive quest for a perfect pop song.

Congratulations on winning the Sound of 2018! How does it feel?

I’m really honoured. I just want to swear a lot, but I know I can’t do that on the BBC so I’m trying to hold it in!

Previous winners include Adele, Sam Smith and Ellie Goulding. What does it mean to be in their company?

Adele’s one of my favourite artists! It’s huge and I don’t think I’m going to understand how big it is until I walk out of this room.

Is it true that the first time you sang in public was at a sort of home-made circus?

Haha! Yes! That was at my grandparents’ cabin, which is situated in a bay 20 minutes from our house in Alesund. The children arranged a circus and we took money for people to come, which we spent on an inflatable dragon we could play on in the sea.

What did you sing?

A Norwegian song called Steinrøysa Neri Bakken by Alf Prøysen – it’s like a traditional, old-school song.

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“Music has been a big part of my life ever since my mother started singing good night songs for us and my dad helped me learn how to play the guitar.”

Was that the moment you decided to be a singer?

That took quite a while, I think. I was a very shy kid. Very shy. But I started doing theatre when I was six years old and that really changed something. My more playful side came out of me.

Then, when I was in junior high I started doing covers – Ellie Goulding, Adele, Coldplay, Keane – and I would change the rhythm or the melody to make it my own. That’s when I discovered I like to make stuff, not just copy it.

Then your first original song got picked up by the Norwegian equivalent of BBC Introducing.

That was a big moment for me. It was the first time someone told me I made cool stuff outside of my school.

But the thing was, I was very torn about what I wanted to do. I had a record contract, but I took a small break from releasing music because I wanted to finish school. At that point, I wanted to become a lawyer. I wanted to become a politics teacher. I had a lot of ideas about what I wanted to do!

Didn’t you end up studying politics?

For two months! It was a three-year degree, but I only had the introduction. I’m very glad I quit.

But I want to study some day. Maybe after my third album I’ll just go to Uni. That would be really cool.

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The singer really comes alive on stage

Can you tell me about the recording session that inspired Don’t Kill My Vibe? What did they do to you?

Just some mean comments. I’m not sure if I want to go that deep into it.

Anyway, the song isn’t about me being a diva going, “Oh, you don’t respect me.” It’s just like, “Just be polite and nice. That’s all I’m asking for.”

You write principally on the piano. Why that instrument in particular?

You can get so many moods out of it. The whole spectrum of emotions.

[Getting up to play] This is my favourite chord – an F Major 7. It’s so bittersweet.

The piano really comes to the fore on Dynamite – which I’ve heard people compare to Adele’s Someone Like You. What was going through your mind when you recorded that?

I was trying to be as sad as possible. Like, on the brink of crying. We did it in one take.

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A lot of your other songs take negative emotions and turn them into something empowering.

That’s intentional, definitely.

Did you set that goal when you went into the studio?

Not necessarily when I go into the studio. Maybe an hour into the session we settle our goal for the day.

But I always have a bigger vision, yes. And my vision is to make interesting pop music that has a nerve to it, that is catchy, that has a sense of humour.

Is there something about Scandinavian pop that makes it stand out to British ears?

Definitely my accent! My accent is weird. When I listen to some of the words I’m pronouncing in Don’t Kill My Vibe, I think I could have been better! Even today, I feel like my English is terrible. I haven’t been speaking English over Christmas.

But I think the Scandi “thing” is very intricate melodies. English is our second language, and that creates a barrier where you have to concentrate on the melody. Because of that, I guess there’s a history of making good vocal hooks – and that makes good pop music.

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The star says her debut album will be released in 2018… hopefully

There’s a great moment on your latest single, Strangers, where you suddenly go “whoop!” in the middle of the chorus. How did that come about?

I don’t know! I just think it’s a funny sound.

I like to be dramatic in my music because that’s when it gets to your heart. You want to have that nerve to it. But I also love to mix in humorous stuff like the “whoop” because it loosens it up and makes it interesting.

Are you always looking for that magic ingredient?

Oh yes! In every song. That’s my favourite quest. I love getting into a single line and spending an hour on it. It’s fascinating. It’s like a treasure hunt.

What’s been the highlight of being a pop star so far?

The coolest thing we’ve had on our rider has been woollen socks. That happened once in Norway and I’ve never been as happy!

Media captionSigrid performs Raw in Oygardshallen, Giske, Norway, close to where she grew up.

There’s a merchandising opportunity for you: Sigrid socks!

We actually have socks! For the EP, the creative team at Island came up with the idea of having a Don’t Kill My Vibe t-shirt, and then a Plot Twist scarf, Fake Friends socks and a Dynamite polo sweater. And they’re all real garments.

How will you keep that going? Will single number 40 be the Sigrid meat dress?

Ha! That would be really cool.

Finally, how close are you to finishing your album?

The thing is, I want to be a bit secretive about it, if that’s alright? It’s important to me that when I release it, I’m going to release it because it’s finished. Not because it’s expected to be out. But I’m aiming for 2018. It’s very exciting!

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Jessica Falkholt: Home and Away actress has life support turned off

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Home and Away actress Jessica Falkholt has had her life support switched off two weeks after being in a car crash, a hospital in Australia has confirmed.

The crash, which happened in New South Wales on 26 December, killed her parents, sister and the other driver.

The actress, 29, who played Hope Morrison in the soap, remained in a critical condition on Friday.

The decision to end her life support came after a funeral service for her family on Wednesday.

“On behalf of the family of Jessica Falkholt, St George Hospital has been asked to advise the media and the community that Jessica’s life support has been switched off,” a hospital statement said.

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Falkholt family

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Lars, Vivian, Annabelle and Jessica seen together in a photo supplied to the media

At the time of the accident, Network Seven, Home and Away’s broadcaster, released a statement saying: “Although her time on set was brief, once a part of the Home and Away family, always part of the family.”

Falkholt’s character first appeared when Hope and Raffy Morrison arrived in the fictional seaside town of Summer Bay.

Hope briefly worked at the garage, but ran away after stealing money from there and from Salt restaurant.

It emerged that her young sister Raffy – actually her cousin – was a sibling of the Morgan brothers in the soap, so Raffy stayed in the Bay with them when Hope was jailed for her crimes.

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Falkholt (centre) played Hope Morrison on Home and Away

Falkholt’s stint on the long-running series only lasted for 16 episodes and ended in November 2016. She then filmed a role in the US film Harmony, which is set for release this year.

Jessica’s parents Lars and Vivian were killed instantly in the crash and her sister Annabelle died in hospital three days later.

Vivian Falkholt’s brother Paul Ponticello spoke at their funeral, saying he thought he and his sister “would grow old together”.

Australian police are still investigating the crash, which also killed 50-year-old Craig Whittall, who was driving the other car involved.

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Motorhead guitarist ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke dies at 67

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Clarke (right) with Lemmy and Phil Taylor

Eddie Clarke, the last surviving member of Motorhead’s classic line-up, has died at the age of 67.

The band’s Facebook page announced that the guitarist died in hospital after being admitted with pneumonia.

Clarke, whose nickname was Fast Eddie, played with Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister and Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor in the heavy metal band between 1976-82.

He played on the first six Motorhead albums, later going on to form Fastway with UFO bassist Peter Way.

The social media statement also contained tributes from later band members including guitarist Phil Campbell.

He said: “Just heard the sad news that Fast Eddie Clarke has passed away. He will be remembered for his iconic riffs and was a true rock and roller, RIP Eddie.”

The band’s ex-drummer Mikkey Dee added: “This is terrible news, the last of the three amigos.

“I saw Eddie not too long ago and he was in great shape, so this is a complete shock. I was looking forward to seeing him in the UK this summer.

“Now Lem and Philthy can jam with Eddie again and if you listen carefully I’m sure you’ll hear them, so watch out!”

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Meryl Streep says Oprah Winfrey has ‘the voice of a leader’

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Streep said Oprah (right) had “set the bar pretty high”

Actress Meryl Streep has said Oprah Winfrey has “the voice of a leader”, as speculation swirls that the chat show queen may mount a presidential bid.

Referring to Oprah’s speech at this weekend’s Golden Globes, Streep told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: “That is how you rouse people. That is how you lead.”

And the actress said she had heard that Oprah “is really considering” running.

She “certainly set the bar pretty high for anybody else who decides to run” for president in 2020, Streep added.

“No-one can speak in less lofty terms and adhere to principle and passion in a political campaign, because we’ve seen that it’s possible,” she said.

Streep was in the audience when Winfrey gave her address at Sunday’s award ceremony, which was dominated by the fallout from Hollywood’s sex abuse scandals. She received a rapturous reception for telling the audience “a new day is on the horizon”.

Media captionTom Hanks: ‘Oprah is one of a kind’

Streep was talking to Marr to promote her new film The Post. The full interview will be aired on Marr’s BBC One programme on Sunday.

She was speaking alongside her co-star Tom Hanks and director Steven Spielberg, who both expressed similar sentiments about Oprah’s appeal.

“Oprah’s had 35 years experience of building bridges and creating conversations between disparate people who don’t agree… on her syndicated television show,” Spielberg said. “For me, those are credentials for qualification.”

Hanks said: “I believe Oprah wakes up in the morning and both personally and professionally wonders what she can do specifically in order to make the world a better place.”

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Apparently referring to President Trump, Hanks continued: “We have proven, I think, just within the last few years, that if you want to be president of the United States, guess what, there’s a way that that can happen.”

Oprah hasn’t spoken about the speculation, but the possibility that she might consider running has prompted a response from the White House’s current occupant.

“I like Oprah but I don’t think she’s going to run,” President Trump said earlier this week, adding that it would be “a lot of fun” to go up against her.

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Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks at The Post’s European premiere in London

Speaking at a press conference a day after The Post’s European premiere, Streep also spoke about the Time’s Up campaign, which was endorsed by many attendees at the Golden Globes.

Described as a “unified call for change from women in entertainment for women everywhere”, the project aims to raise money to combat sexual harassment in the film industry and other workplaces.

“Somebody said it’s like an airplane being put together while we’re going down the runway to take off,” Streep said of the campaign. “It’s a moving thing and that’s good, because it needs to fly.

“It’s a growing thing and the most heartening thing is that it doesn’t feel like a one-off. It hasn’t gone away and I don’t think it will. I don’t think we will go backwards.”

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Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep play a newspaper editor and publisher in Spielberg’s film

Released in the UK on Friday 19 January, The Post tells the real-life story of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and proprietor Kay Graham, who published the classified Pentagon Papers in 1971.

The film was nominated for six Golden Globes but failed to win any prizes at the first major film awards ceremony of the year.

The Post was also snubbed by Bafta earlier this week – something that Streep feigned mock outrage about during Thursday’s press conference in central London.

“Sadly we haven’t been invited to the Baftas so I can’t talk to that,” she replied when asked whether attendees at next month’s event should emulate those at the Golden Globes and wear black in solidarity with victims of sexual abuse.

‘A great Rubicon’

Hanks, who plays Bradlee, said Sunday’s ceremony was evidence that “a great Rubicon” had been crossed in terms of gender equality.

“What is going to come about, I think, is that more women are going to be awarded their positions based on their merits and the quality of their work,” the Forrest Gump star said on Thursday.

Hanks also suggested that the film industry should emulate television, where the proportion of female directors, female writers and female-led projects is considerably higher.

“Television kicks [the] movies’ ass when it comes to diversity in the workplace,” he said. “Women are much better represented in that medium than they are in motion pictures.”

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Women still only account for 11% of film directors

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Lady Bird director Greta Gerwig (left) and Wonder Woman’s Patty Jenkins enjoyed success in 2017

Only 11% of the highest-grossing movies in the US last year were directed by women, researchers have found.

The study, conducted by San Diego State University, looked at the top 250 films at the US box office in 2017.

Overall, it found that women comprised just 18% of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers.

That figure is barely higher than the 17% who held such roles 20 years ago, in 1998.

The most successful film with a female director in 2017 was Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman – the ninth top-grossing film of the year.

Proportion of top 250 films with female directors

  • 2017 – 11%
  • 2016 – 7%
  • 2015 – 9%
  • 2014 – 7%
  • 2013 – 6%

The proportion of female directors rose by four percentage points in 2017 – up from 7% the previous year. It was the first time the figure had reached double figures since 2000, when it was also 11%.

The study also found that 83% of the top 250 films films had no female writers.

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The issue of gender equality among directors has been a big talking point, and was addressed by actress Natalie Portman at Sunday night’s Golden Globes.

Introducing the best director category, she said: “And here are the all-male nominees.”

The nominations for next month’s Bafta film awards were announced earlier this week – and, again, the best director category was exclusively male.

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Director who wouldn’t be silenced at Golden Globes

Guillermo del Toro, director of The Shape of WaterImage copyright

“Lower the music, guys, one second.”

Guillermo del Toro was mid-acceptance speech at Sunday night’s Golden Globes when the orchestra began playing him off.

“It’s taken 25 years [to win this award],” The Shape Of Water director laughed. “Give me a minute. Give me a minute!”

Not only did his demand prompt cheers from the audience – but it was also effective, as the orchestra did in fact back off and allow him to finish.

Del Toro went on to complete his speech, later praised for its poignancy, in which he stressed that making movies had “saved his life” on three separate occasions.

“I understand that there’s a show to run and I understand that they needed to get going,” the director tells BBC News.

“But there is also the need [for the winner] to acknowledge a few people that were integral to the process of the movie, and to finish your thought.”

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Del Toro directed The Shape Of Water – which stars Octavia Spencer and Sally Hawkins

Del Toro, who has also been nominated for best director at next month’s Baftas, adds that the walk from the table to the stage can be overwhelming, and therefore require some extra time to gather your thoughts.

“When you reach that stage, you want a moment to recompose yourself and say what you think, so you know, I felt I needed just a few more seconds,” he says.

Did anyone from the Globes tell him off for going over his allotted time?

“No no, the beautiful thing in the Globes is not that I asked for more time and the orchestra to be quiet, but that they gave it to me.

“That’s the remarkable thing. It was very generous and very moving.”

But del Toro’s acceptance speech wasn’t the only thing that caught viewers’ attention during the presentation of best director.

While introducing the category, actress Natalie Portman said: “And here are the all-male nominees.”

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The camera panned to del Toro as she said it, but, he explains now, he hadn’t initially heard what she said.

“From where we were sitting, sometimes what is said on the stage in the microphone is very hard to hear,” he says.

“It’s one thing on TV, and one thing around [the auditorium]. I heard the category, and I was reacting to that, and it was only a few beats later that you heard what she said.

“So all the reactions in the room were delayed by a couple of beats. On camera they happen faster because the microphones were much clearer to the TV than in the room.”

Twitter erupted with praise for Portman’s efforts to draw attention to the gender imbalance in film directing.

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Del Toro says directors such as Patty Jenkins and Greta Gerwig should be recognised

And del Toro says he “absolutely” agrees more women behind the camera should be recognised at awards ceremonies.

“Particularly in this year, with the movies that Greta Gerwig [director of Lady Bird] or Patty Jenkins [Wonder Woman] have made, it’s very important I think to recognise it.

“There is a reason to do it, there is material to do it. The important thing is to recognise this season there are films that are very worthy, made by very good female storytellers.”

Del Toro is riding on the crest of a wave at the moment. Shortly after the Globes ceremony, he heard The Shape Of Water had also picked up the most nominations (12) at this year’s Bafta film awards.

“It felt fantastic… you feel elated to be in the conversation,” he says of the Bafta recognition.

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The Shape Of Water has been nominated for 12 awards at this year’s Baftas

“After 25 years, you know it doesn’t happen every time, so you learn to be grateful and humble, but also encouraged, and I think the Baftas have a stature and have a way to reach an audience and lift a movie above the end-of-year din or the beginning of awards season.

“That is significant for a film-maker, this [awards] season is about reaching the Olympics, and being in the Olympics is very good, you feel each round is important, not about you, but about the movie reaching an audience and being rewarded for taking a risk or being bold or inventive and unique.”

The Shape Of Water stars British actress Sally Hawkins as a janitor who forms a relationship with an amphibious creature being held in captivity.

During his Globes speech, del Toro credited the film, along with two of his others – 2006′s Pan’s Labyrinth and 2001′s Devil’s Backbone – with “saving his life”.

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“This movie’s ultimately a biography, and out of this really dark turmoil, you find a little bit of light. And that has happened to be several times in 25 years of storytelling,” he tells the BBC.

“It happened certainly on The Devil’s Backbone. I was at the end of my rope after having done only two movies, one of them – Mimic – was with Miramax Dimension, that was such a bad experience, such a harrowing experience, and then there was the kidnapping of my father shortly thereafter. After that, Devil’s Backbone picked me up and healed me.

“And in a different set of circumstances, that happened with Pan’s Labyrinth. These movies come out of that very dark night of the soul.”

The Shape Of Water is released in the UK on 14 February 2018.

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Blue Planet II tops 2017 TV ratings

Blue Planet II

David Attenborough’s underwater documentary series Blue Planet II was the most-watched TV show of 2017.

The 29 October episode – the first of the series – attracted more than 14 million viewers to BBC One.

Blue Planet II occupied the top four slots in the end-of-year top 10.

Strictly Come Dancing was the second most popular show, followed by I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, the One Love Manchester concert, Broadchurch and Britain’s Got Talent.

The One Love concert was held to raise money for victims of the Manchester Arena terror attack.

The Great British Bake Off was the most watched programme in 2016 with 15.9 million viewers, but was absent from this year’s top 10 following its move to Channel 4.

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The top 10 most-watched TV shows of 2017

This table has the highest-rated episodes of each programme, with any other episodes of the same show omitted.

Source: Barb/PA

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The Shape of Water leads Bafta nominations

Media captionBaftas: And the nominations are…

The Shape of Water leads this year’s Bafta film award nominations, with 12 nods in total.

The fantasy romance stars British actress Sally Hawkins as a janitor who forms a relationship with an amphibious creature being held in captivity.

Darkest Hour and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri both received nine nominations.

Gary Oldman, Jamie Bell and Daniel Kaluuya are among the British nominees – all recognised for best actor.

Hawkins and Irish actress Saoirse Ronan are among those nominated for best leading actress.

They face competition from Frances McDormand for Three Billboards, and Margot Robbie, who is nominated for her portrayal of controversial Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding in I, Tonya.

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Kristin Scott Thomas and Gary Oldman are both nominated for their roles in Darkest Hour

Call Me by Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk and Three Billboards are nominated alongside The Shape of Water for best film.

Three Billboards and Darkest Hour are also up for outstanding British film, along with Paddington 2, Lady Macbeth, God’s Own Country and The Death of Stalin.

Paddington 2 has three nominations in total – including adapted screenplay and a best supporting actor nod for Hugh Grant.

His competition includes Christopher Plummer, who replaced Kevin Spacey at the last minute in All The Money In The World.

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That category also includes Willem Dafoe for The Florida Project, and Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson, who are both nominated for Three Billboards.

The nominees for supporting actress include Allison Janney for her portrayal of Tonya Harding’s mother in I, Tonya.

The actress, best known for her role in The West Wing, won best supporting actress at Sunday night’s Golden Globes.

She faces Kristin Scott Thomas (Darkest Hour), Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird), Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread) and Octavia Spencer (The Shape Of Water).

The most notable omissions include The Post, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, which didn’t receive any nominations.

The Disaster Artist didn’t pick up any nominations, despite James Franco’s win for best actor in a comedy or musical at Sunday’s Golden Globes for his role in the film.

Dame Judi Dench also missed out for her role in Victoria and Abdul despite her Globes nod.

The Leisure Seeker, which scored a nomination for Dame Helen Mirren at the Globes, wasn’t eligible for this year’s Baftas.

The nominations for Three Billboards follow its success at the Globes, where it picked up four prizes including best drama film.

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The Post, starring Meryl Streep, was notably absent from the nominees

Sally Hawkins is among Britain’s leading contenders for the Oscars, and she told the BBC she was “incredibly humbled” by her Bafta nomination for best actress.

“It feels like a gift from my homeland and I am very touched by it,” she said. “I believe this is an important film and it is a deep, deep part of my heart. So to be honoured and recognised in such a way… is a gift.”

Kristin Scott Thomas said receiving the fifth Bafta nomination of her career – for playing Sir Winston Churchill’s wife Clementine in Darkest Hour – was “completely thrilling”.

She told BBC News: “It’s particularly thrilling because of the film itself, which I’m so proud to be in, and the fact that it’s putting Clemmie in the spotlight a little bit, which is great, because I think she deserves a lot more attention.”

She said she wasn’t yet sure whether guests at the ceremony on 18 February would wear black as a mark of solidarity with victims of sexual assault and harassment, as they did at Sunday’s Golden Globes.

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Hugh Grant has now been nominated for Baftas for two years in a row

“I think that is a decision we will make as a group of women,” she said. “Somebody will come up with an idea and I’m ready to support any decision that is made about making statements.”

She added that the film industry was at a “turning point” and she would “absolutely participate” in any idea to bring attention to such issues.

Gary Oldman, who plays Churchill, told the BBC: “This is my third Bafta nomination as an actor; the recognition means so much.

“Especially more so not merely for the distinguished company I now find myself in with my fellow nominees, but most especially for the privilege of playing Winston Churchill, which it truly was.”

Greta Gerwig, whose script for Lady Bird is nominated for best original screenplay, said: “I’ve always wanted to be a writer and director, and I could not be more happy that I’ve been able to do it and that it has been received with such love.”

She added: “I am thrilled for Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf – they are both such extraordinary actresses, and they are deserving of every accolade.”

This year’s Bafta ceremony will take place at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Joanna Lumley will host, replacing Stephen Fry after he announced he’d be stepping down.

The nominations for the EE Rising Star category were announced last week.

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Radio 4 host Winifred Robinson taken off air after tweet backing Carrie Gracie

Winifred Robinson

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Robinson joined You and Yours in 2000

Winifred Robinson, presenter for Radio 4 show You and Yours, was taken off air on Tuesday – a day after posting her views on the BBC and equal pay.

The consumer programme’s focus on Tuesday was the issue of gender pay following Carrie Gracie’s resignation as the BBC’s China editor.

The BBC confirmed it had replaced Robinson due to impartiality issues.

Gracie left her post, citing pay inequality with male international editors earning more than her.

Gracie’s resignation prompted an urgent question in the House of Commons on Tuesday over accusations of unfair pay at the BBC.

The new Culture Secretary Matthew Hancock, told MPs: “the BBC must not only uphold – but be a beacon for – the British values of fairness that this nation holds dear. That includes fair pay and equal pay for equal jobs. “

The BBC’s head of news, Fran Unsworth, said the issue of pay was a “priority” for the corporation.

It is understood that Winifred Robinson was taken off air for Tuesday’s edition of the consumer affairs show only – and will resume presenting the programme according to the Radio 4 schedule.

Robinson is among many BBC workers who have tweeted their support for Gracie.

Image Copyright @wrobinson101

Twitter post by @wrobinson101: Equal pay for equal work - it's the law - as Carrie says. See her letter@the times #carriegracie #IStandWithCarrie #EqualPay ~bbcwomen Image Copyright @wrobinson101

In another tweet, she described the situation involving Gracie as “a mess”.

Image Copyright @wrobinson101

Twitter post by @wrobinson101: Superb journalist, great China Editor. What a mess to lose her from that post. @BBCCarrie #equalpay #istandwithcarrieImage Copyright @wrobinson101

In an open letter issued on Sunday, Gracie – who has been at the BBC for more than 30 years – accused the corporation of having a “secretive and illegal pay culture”.

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Gracie, who has worked at the BBC for 30 years, is returning to her former post in the TV newsroom in London

She said she would return to her former post in the TV newsroom in London “where I expect to be paid equally”.

Ms Gracie told Radio 4′s Woman’s Hour the BBC had offered to raise her annual salary to £180,000, but she did not see that as a solution and there would still have been “a big gap between myself and my male peers”.

On Twitter, she said she would receive a salary of £145,000 when she returned to her role on the BBC News Channel on 29 January.

Due to the BBC’s impartiality rules, presenter Jane Garvey – who had also tweeted support for Ms Gracie – said she was unable to conduct the interview.

Instead, despite Ms Gracie being in the Woman’s Hour studio, the interview was carried out by freelance journalist Jane Martinson, from a separate location.

‘BBC pay equality is vital’

BBC guidelines dictate that reporters should should not be “exposed to conflicts of interest”, and there must be “editorial separation” of those reporting the story.

The UK’s equality watchdog is to write to the BBC following the resignation of Gracie.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission said it would consider whether further action is required based on the corporation’s response.

In a statement, the new BBC’s head of news, Fran Unsworth, said: “BBC pay equality is vital. This issue has been the subject of a lot of debate, both on the BBC and elsewhere, over the past 24 hours.”

Unsworth added: “Everyone at the BBC has wanted to do this as quickly as possible, but equally, we need to get it right.”

She said she anticipated the BBC audit into presenter pay, which the corporation is working on with accounting firm PWC, would be published by the end of this month.

“The report will help inform a new pay policy at the BBC,” she said.

‘Right to speak out’

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Evan Davis has been vocal about equal pay on Twitter

During Tuesday’s Commons debate, Stella Creasy, the MP for Walthamstow in east London, asked: “[The Secretary] has the power to give a direction to the BBC about equality of opportunity, so will he use that to ensure every member of staff – male or female – at the BBC is able to express their freedom of expression at work and protect their right to speak out as the best way to get transparency?”

Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley, added: “Evan Davis took to presenting Newsnight to talk about this last night, after going on Twitter and giving his very clear opinion… about this issue.

“Why has he not been silenced when women who have spoken up as part of the campaign group have been taken off air?”

Davis discussed the issue with employment lawyer Jennifer Miller and former director of news at BBC World, Sian Kevill, on Monday night.

He had posted a series of tweets giving his views about equal pay at the BBC on the same day.

Image Copyright @EvanHD

Twitter post by @EvanHD: The BBC needs to sort this issue out! There have been and are some serious anomalies; not all are gender related but many surely are. 2/9Image Copyright @EvanHD

Image Copyright @EvanHD

Twitter post by @EvanHD: When it comes to other companies (like EasyJet) the issue is often not pay discrimination, but the fact that women cluster in different and lower paid jobs. That is a completely different issue. 9/9Image Copyright @EvanHD

A BBC spokesperson said: “It is down to individual editors and the individual circumstances [on whether individuals are asked to stand aside due to impartiality issues].

The BBC guidelines on impartiality state that: “When dealing with controversial subjects concerning the BBC, our reporting must remain duly impartial, as well as accurate and fair.

“We need to ensure the BBC’s impartiality is not brought into question and presenters or reporters are not exposed to potential conflicts of interest.

“There should also be clear editorial separation between those reporting the story and those responsible for presenting the BBC’s case.”

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