SAG plays starring role in awards season

January 27, 2008 5:34:40 PM PST
Normally a small cousin to the Golden Globes and Academy Awards, Sunday's Screen Actors Guild Awards could end up being the biggest party of Hollywood's film-honors season this time. The swanky Globes were canceled because of a strike by the Writers Guild of America, which refused to let its members work on the show, and the fate of the Oscars on Feb. 24 is in question because of the same labor quarrel.

Not so for the SAG honors. The actors union has been steadfast in support of striking writers, who in turn gave their blessing to the SAG ceremony.

Instead of the debacle for the Globes, which were curtailed to a star-free news conference after actors and filmmakers made it clear they would not cross writers' picket lines, the SAG ceremony was expected to come off with a full complement of Hollywood A-listers.

"We're really proud of the solidarity we've built with the Writers Guild," said Alan Rosenberg, SAG president. "Our members have understood that and taken it to heart. I was really moved by their decision not to go to the Golden Globes, our nominees. It's tough times, but it's been gratifying, as well."

Plans for the SAG Awards included a bit more gloss than usual, with the ceremony marking the union's 75th anniversary. The show will feature chandeliers, arches, wallpaper and other decor harking back to the 1930s, when the guild was founded.

But the event wasn't without its issues - the weather, with a forecast of wind and rain on the red carpet. Organizers hastily tented the arrivals area, ensuring that the glamour of what could be the only movie awards of the season retained its glitter.

Among the evening's nominees were George Clooney, Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson for the legal thriller "Michael Clayton"; Angelina Jolie for the terrorism tale "A Mighty Heart"; Daniel Day-Lewis for the oil-boom saga "There Will Be Blood"; Javier Bardem and Tommy Lee Jones for the crime story "No Country for Old Men"; Emile Hirsch, Catherine Keener and Hal Holbrook for the road drama "Into the Wild"; Julie Christie for the Alzheimer's drama "Away From Her"; and Cate Blanchett for both the historical pageant "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" and the Bob Dylan chronicle "I'm Not There."

"Into the Wild" and "No Country for Old Men" also were nominated for overall cast performance, along with the Western "3:10 to Yuma," the crime tale "American Gangster" and the musical "Hairspray."

"No Country for Old Men" won top honors Saturday night at the Directors Guild of America Awards for Joel and Ethan Coen. The winner there almost always goes on to take home the directing Oscar.

If it also wins the cast prize from the actors guild, "No Country for Old Men" could emerge as the favorite to win best-picture at the Oscars.

As with the Golden Globes, the Writers Guild has made it clear that its members would not be allowed to work on the Oscars. While stars generally have said they would skip the show rather than cross picket lines, Oscar organizers insist their telecast will take place as scheduled.

Amy Ryan, a SAG and Oscar supporting-actress nominee for "Gone Baby Gone," said at the Directors Guild awards Saturday that she would not cross a picket line to attend the Oscars.

"I hope it ends but, more, I hope the writers get their due," Ryan said. "I think that, at the end of the day, is more important than a party. But I really hope it works out because I'd like to go to the party."

Many in Hollywood hope a new contract recently negotiated by the Directors Guild of America might help jump-start a deal between producers and writers, who went on strike Nov. 5 over their share of revenue from programming on the Internet and other new media.

The SAG awards generally have been a solid forecast for who wins at the Oscars. Three of the four guild victors a year ago - Helen Mirren for "The Queen," Forest Whitaker for "The Last King of Scotland" and Jennifer Hudson for "Dreamgirls" - went on to receive Oscars.

SAG's prize for overall-cast performance, the show's equivalent of a best-picture honor, has been a less-reliable Oscar barometer, with only 5-of-12 guild winners going on to receive the top Academy Award. Last year's SAG winner, "Little Miss Sunshine," lost for best picture at the Oscars to "The Departed."

This time, only one of the SAG nominees - "No Country for Old Men" - scored a best-picture nomination for the Oscars.

Airing live on TNT and TBS, plans for the SAG ceremony included a life-achievement honor for Charles Durning.