David O Russell’s American Hustle took the Screen Actors Guild Awards’ top honour for outstanding cast on Saturday night, beating Steve McQueen’s acclaimed 12 Years a Slave. Because actors make up the largest branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the SAG Awards (which last year picked Argo) are considered one of the best indicators of the Oscars.
Just days ago, the Academy Awards’ nominations set up a trio of front runners, bestowing 10 nods on American Hustle and Gravity, and nine on 12 Years a Slave. But though no actor was individually honoured by the guild for American Hustle, the Abscam tale now appears to have an edge over its Oscar rivals.
Speaking for a cast that includes Amy Adams, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper credited Russell as the epitome of the actor’s director.
“He makes you feel like you’re part of the family, whether you’re Robert De Niro or you’re Patty Mack,” Cooper said at the Shrine Auditorium ceremony in Los Angeles. “You are part of the family.”
Saturday’s awards were a somewhat low-key affair with a few memorable speeches but no earthquakes in a rapidly solidifying award season. The night’s acting winners – Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) and Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) – are each probably the favourites in their categories.
“It really shines a great light on this bull ride we call acting,” said McConaughey, honoured for Lead Actor in the Texas HIV drama. “I’ve been able to recently find some characters that I can humble myself to their humanities and get feverishly drunk on their obsessions.”
One of the night’s biggest winners was Nyong’o, who won Supporting Actress over Lawrence. Though 12 Years a Slave is only her feature film debut, the Kenyan actress has been hailed for her red-carpet style and grace this awards season.
She thanked McQueen “for taking a flashlight and shining it underneath the floorboards of this nation and reminding us what it is we stand on”.
The Breaking Bad victory lap continued as the show took honours for Outstanding Dramatic Cast and for Lead Actor Bryan Cranston. For his indelible performance as teacher-turned-meth dealer, Cranston added his second Lead Actor SAG Award, to go with his recent Golden Globe win and his numerous Emmys.
Two big-screen veterans won awards for TV films: Michael Douglas for HBO’s Liberace drama, Behind the Candelabra, and Helen Mirren for the biopic Phil Spector, also on HBO.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been a mainstay at award shows recently, both for her acclaimed HBO series Veep (for which she won an Emmy) and the romantic comedy Enough Said (for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe). She won an SAG trophy for Female Actor in a Comedy Series for Veep, and slyly mocked the award season crush by first thanking the Hollywood Foreign Press and then the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
“It’s hard, you know, because it’s awards season and things get confusing, much like elections,” said Louis-Dreyfus.
The ABC sitcom Modern Family enjoyed another round of awards, winning for Ensemble in a Comedy Series and taking the Best Male Actor in a Comedy Series honour for Ty Burrell.
Emma Thompson, a surprise snub in Thursday’s Oscar nominations for the Mary Poppins making-of tale Saving Mr Banks, was just as much the witty, winning award-show attendee she’s been all season. As a presenter, the lead actress nominee noted the show’s cheesy elevator music soundtrack: “Is this music available on CD?”
SAG’s Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Rita Moreno, the 81-year-old West Side Story actress whose career has spanned Broadway, television and music. Introduced by Morgan Freeman, the much-honoured Latina legend danced to the podium before a standing ovation and let out a gleeful expletive that was quickly dubbed out. “I hope the man with the button was there,” she said.
* Associated Press