(Reuters) - Two rising Hollywood actresses are seen as front-runners for this year's Best Actress Oscar, with Jennifer Lawrence expected to steal the show from Jessica Chastain on awards night, a Reuters poll showed on Wednesday.
In true Hollywood style, there is even some off-screen drama between the actresses before the February 24 Academy Awards with Chastain from "Zero Dark Thirty" using Facebook to deny unsubstantiated rumors of fierce rivalry with Lawrence from "Silver Linings Playbook."
"I find it very sad that the media makes up bogus stories about women fighting in this industry," wrote Chastain over the weekend.
The two actresses are in a field of five vying for the top female title at the world's most prestigious movie awards.
The group also includes the youngest and oldest nominees in the award's 85-year history, with 9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis nominated for "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and Emmanuelle Riva, 85, up for foreign language drama "Amour."
The fifth actress in the running is Naomi Watts as the mother in the tsunami movie "The Impossible."
Riva has won two best actress awards this year - from the BAFTA and the National Society of Film Critics - for playing a retired music teacher struggling to cope with the aftermath of a stroke in Austrian director Michael Haneke's film.
But a Reuters Ipsos poll of 1,586 Americans found 15 percent thought Lawrence, 22, should win the Oscar and 15 percent said she was most likely to win the prize.
Only 11 percent thought Chastain, 35, should win and 10 percent said she was most likely to win. Riva was only seen as most likely to win by 4 percent of voters.
Chastain and Lawrence have been competing head-to-head so far in the major acting awards this year.
Chastain lost out to Lawrence in the Screen Actors Guild awards last month when "The Hunger Games" star won the Best Actress prize for her role as a young widow in the quirky romance "Silver Linings Playbook."
But Chastain took home the Golden Globe for her role as a young female CIA agent who tracks down Osama bin Laden in thriller "Zero Dark Thirty."
Both actresses have been nominated for Oscars previously.
Chastain was in the running for Best Supporting Actress last year for her role in "The Help" while Lawrence was nominated for Best Actress in 2010 for the indie hit "Winter's Bone."
The public was more certain on who would bag the award for Best Supporting Actress from the 6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Anne Hathaway has already won three trophies this year for playing Fantine in the musical "Les Miserables."
The Reuters poll, conducted between February 8 and Tuesday, found 26 percent of voters said Hathaway was most likely to take home the Best Supporting Actress statuette, while 18 percent expected Sally Field to win for her role in the U.S. Civil War-era drama "Lincoln."
Also nominated for their supporting turns are Amy Adams from "The Master," Helen Hunt from "The Sessions" and Jacki Weaver from "Silver Linings Playbook."
The accuracy of the Reuters poll uses a statistical measure called a "credibility interval" and is precise to within 2.8 percentage points.
(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, editing by Jill Serjeant and Doina Chiacu)
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