HALLE OF FAME; Berry Chases Historic Oscar
Byline: RICK FULTON
BOND girl Halle Berry is a hot favourite to become the first black winner of the best actress Oscar.
The stunner was last night nominated as three African Americans entered the running for the top two acting awards for the first time in 30 years.
And Brits picked up a string of nominations for next month's awards.
Berry is up for her role in Monster's Ball. Denzel Washington and Will Smith will battle it out in the best actor category.
Three black actors last competed in the lead categories when Diana Ross, Cicely Tyson and Paul Winfield were in the running in 1972.
Movie legend Sidney Poitier is assured of a prize - he's getting an honourary award. But Halle faces stiff competition.
Dame Judi Dench - an Oscar winner for Shakespeare in Love - is nominated for Iris, along with Sissy Spacek for In The Bedroom.
She also has to take on Nicole Kidman, who won a Golden Globe for Moulin Rouge, and Renee Zellweger for Bridget Jones's Diary.
Smith and Washington also face British competition. Tom Wilkinson - the foreman in The Full Monty - got a nomination for In The Bedroom.
Last year's winner Russell Crowe is again nominated, alongside Sean Penn.
The Lord of the Rings could collect a whopping 13 Oscars - including best picture. Musical Moulin Rouge, starring Ewan McGregor, is up for eight.
Sir Ian McKellen, the only Rings actor nominated, said: "The Academy has followed the good taste of the public and discerned that this is an important film."
Brits Jim Broadbent, for Iris, and Ben Kingsley, for Sexy Beast, join him in the best supporting actor category.
Gosford Park's Helen Mirren and Dame Maggie Smith face opposition from Kate Winslett, for Iris, for the best supporting actress award.
It's Smith's eighth nomination. She already has two Oscars.
Winslet said: "I'm really excited but I'd have been very upset if Judi hadn't been nominated. …