Francois Ozon's 8 Women leads the nominations for France's Cesar Awards, which were announced on Friday in Paris.

Ozon's all star ensemble piece received 12 nominations, while Roman Polanski's The Pianist received 10 nods, Constantin Costa-Gavras' Amen got seven and Cedric Klapisch's Europudding (L'Auberge Espagnol) six

While it's no shock to see 8 Women heavily represented, surprises came in the shape of four acting and tech nods for Asterix And Obelix: Mission Cleopatra, France's biggest box-office hit of 2002. (See list of nominations below).

Rarely in the past has a film been nominated which has performed so strongly at the box office. Toscan du Plantier, president of the Academie des Arts et Techniques du Cinema, joked at a press conference to announce the nominations that the film was included "despite it's 14 million tickets sold." He added, "We are thrilled to see it in the selection. It is the first time a film with such success has been nominated."

Among the best film nominees, two are likely to stir up controversy in France - Polanski's The Pianist and Costa-Gavras' Amen which both received nods as best French film. Toscan du Plantier took pains to explain to those assembled that both directors are French (Polanski by birth, Costa-Gavras by naturalisation) and that the films each qualify as French under the guidelines set up by the CNC, France's National Cinema watchdog.

Toscan du Plantier also announced that a new award will be created this year under the heading Best Film from the European Union. The idea will be copied at Spain's Goya and Italy's Donatello awards. Veteran French star Jeanne Moreau will present the trophies on all three occasions.

Honorary awards will go to French actress Bernadette Lafont and American director Spike Lee. French actress Geraldine Pailhas will be the mistress of ceremonies - the first time a woman has hosting duties in several years - and the ceremony will be broadcast live and unscrambled by Canal Plus.

The prizes will be handed out on February 22 at Paris' Chatelet Theatre

List of Principal Nominees

Best French Film
8 Women - Francois Ozon
Amen - Constantin Costa-Gavras
Etre Et Avoir - Nicolas Philibert
Europudding - Cedric Klapisch
The Pianist - Roman Polanski

Best Director
Constantin Costa-Gavras - Amen
Cedric Klapisch - Europudding
Francois Ozon - 8 Women
Nicolas Philibert - Etre Et avoir
Roman Polanski - The Pianist

Best Actor
Daniel Auteuil - The Adversary
Francois Berleand - My Idol
Adrien Brody -The Pianist
Bernard Campan - Se Souvenir Des Belles Choses
Mathieu Kassovitz - Amen

Best Actress
Fanny Ardant - 8 Women
Ariane Ascaride - Marie-Jo And Her Two Lovers
Juliette Binoche - Jet-Lag
Isabelle Carre - Se Souvenir Des Belles Choses
Isabelle Huppert - 8 Women

Best Supporting Actor
Francois Cluzet - The Adversary
Gerard Darmon - Asterix And Obelix: Mission Cleopatra
Jamel Debbouze - Asterix And Obelix: Mission Cleopatra
Bernard Le Coq - Se Souvenir Des Belles Choses
Denis Podalydes - Embrassez Qui Vous Voudrez

Best Supporting Actress
Dominique Blanc - C'est Le Bouquet!
Danielle Darrieux - 8 Women
Emmanuelle Devos - The Adversary
Judith Godreche - Europudding
Karin Viard - Embrassez Qui Vous Voudrez

Male Newcomer
Lorant Deutsch - 3 Zeros
Morgan Marinne - The Son
Jean-Paul Rouve - Monsieur Batignole
Gaspard Ulliel - Embrassez Qui Vous Voudrez
Malik Zidi - Un Moment De Bonheur

Female newcomer
Emilie Dequenne - Une Femme De Menage
Melanie Doutey - The Warrior's Brother
Marina Foïs - Filles Perdues, Cheveux Gras
Cecile de France - Europudding
Ludivine Sagnier - 8 Women

Best Original Screenplay
Michel Blanc - Embrassez Qui Vous Voudrez
Constantin Costa-Gavras and Jean-Claude Grumberg - Amen
Ronald Harwood - The Pianist
Cedric Klapisch - Europudding
Francois Ozon and Marina de Van - 8 Women

Best Foreign Film
Bowling For Columbine - Michael Moore (US)
Drunk On Women And Painting - Im Kwon-taek (South Korea)
Chihiro's Voyage - Hayao Miyazaki (Japan)
Minority Report - Steven Spielberg (US)
Ocean's Eleven - Steven Soderberg (US)

Best European Film
11'09"01 September 11 - Youssef Chahine, Amos Gitai, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Shohei Imamura, Claude Lelouch, Ken Loach, Samira Makhmalbaf, Mira Nair, Idrissa Ouedraogo, Sean Penn, Danis Tanovic
Gosford Park - Robert Altman (UK)
The Man Without A Past - Aki Kaurismaki (Finland)
Talk To Her - Pedro Almodovar (Spain)
Sweet Sixteen - Ken Loach (UK)