Sally Hawkins and Gary Oldman lead British Oscar hopes

They are among the UK stars hoping to bag top prizes.

As the annual awards ceremonies draw ever closer, the British contenders have prizes on their minds.

For 2018 is gearing up to be one of the most open races in years, with a whole horde of superstars in with a decent chance of lifting a trophy.

Meryl Streep could equal a record set by Katharine Hepburn if she wins her fourth Oscar, this time for playing Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham in Steven Spielberg’s film The Post.

However, she is likely to face stiff competition from Margot Robbie, who plays disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding in I, Tonya, Irish actress Saoirse Ronan for Lady Bird, Jessica Chastain for Molly’s Game and current favourite Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

British hopes lie with Sally Hawkins, who stars in Guillermo Del Toro’s dreamy sci-fi love story The Shape Of Water.

And while Dame Judi Dench is not among the favourites to land a nod for reprising her role of Queen Victoria in Victoria & Abdul, she is beloved by the Academy, the voting body that chooses the Oscar nominees and winners and has already landed Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) nominations.

Another Briton with a strong chance of bagging a trophy is Gary Oldman, for playing Winston Churchill in Second World War film Darkest Hour, but he will face competition from countryman Daniel Day-Lewis, for his last acting performance in Phantom Thread and from young breakout star Timothee Chalamet for Call Me By Your Name.

Other stars hoping to sneak in to snatch a nomination include Tom Hanks, who stars opposite Streep in The Post, which dramatises the newspaper’s publication of the classified Pentagon Papers, exposing government lies about the Vietnam War.

James Franco could also be a contender for The Disaster Artist, as could Denzel Washington for Roman J Israel, Esq. after both landed Golden Globe and SAG nominations.

The Post is widely perceived as a sure thing for a best picture nomination, alongside Lady Bird, Call Me By Your Name, Dunkirk and Three Billboards, although The Shape Of Water and Darkest Hour are snapping at their heels, alongside horror satire Get Out.

A nod for that film’s director, comedian Jordan Peele, as well as Lady Bird’s Greta Gerwig, would be an encouraging sign that the Academy’s bid to diversify is having some effect.

After the Oscars So White scandal dominated headlines in 2016, measures were taken to include a far wider spectrum of people to vote for the awards.

So far, only one female film-maker has ever won the best directing prize – Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker – and no black directors have won it.

The season kicks off with the Golden Globes on January 7, followed by the announcement of the Bafta nominations on January 9.

The SAG Awards will be presented on January 21 ahead of Oscar nominations on January 23.

The season concludes when the Academy Awards are handed out at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on March 4.

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