- Associated Press - Sunday, February 13, 2011

LONDON (AP) - Colin Firth has won the best actor prize at Britain’s top film awards, on a night that saw “The King’s Speech” take a fistful of prizes.

Firth won the award Sunday for playing stuttering monarch King George VI in the royal drama.

The film had 14 nominations and also won supporting actor awards for Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush, as well as prizes for music, screenplay and best British film.

But it wasn’t a clean sweep for the made-in-England favorite. David Fincher was named best director for “The Social Network,” and Natalie Portman took the best actress prize for “Black Swan.”

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

LONDON (AP) _ Royal drama “The King’s Speech” faced off Sunday against a ballet thriller, an Internet drama and a tine-twisting sci-fi tale for Britain’s top film prizes _ a foretaste of the Academy Awards in Hollywood later this month.

The made-in-England story of stuttering monarch King George VI had 14 nominations for the British Academy Film Awards and took five early prizes: best British film, original screenplay, original music, supporting actor for Geoffrey Rush and supporting actress, for Helena Bonham Carter’s performance as the Queen Mother Elizabeth.

“I think I should thank the royal family, frankly, because they’ve done wonders for my career,” Bonham Carter said.

Colin Firth is the favorite to be named best actor for playing a king struggling to find his voice in his country’s hour of need.

The King’s Speech” faced strong competition from psychosexual dance thriller “Black Swan,” nominated in 12 categories, and Facebook-founding drama “The Social Network,” which has six nominations and growing momentum following wins at the Golden Globes and other awards.

“The Social Network” took the editing prize, while mind-bending saga “Inception” won prizes for sound, production design and visual effects.

The awards, known as BAFTAs, are considered a strong indicator of possible Oscars glory. Last year, Iraq war drama “The Hurt Locker” won six BAFTAs, including best picture _ then repeated the feat at the Oscars.

Sunday’s ceremony provides a curtain raiser for the Feb. 27 Oscars, offering a mix of gray skies, British style and Hollywood glamour. Stars including Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo, Neve Campbell, Barbara Hershey and Bonham Carter _ in a black Vivienne Westwood dress _ braved a blustery London drizzle to walk the red carpet at London’s Royal Opera House before the televised awards show.

Jesse Eisenberg, the attention-shy star of “The Social Network,” said it was “an overwhelming experience to be here” _ and tipped Firth to take the best actor prize.

Colin Firth is incredible in that movie and this is his home turf,” he said.

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