Backstage notes from SAG awards

Though SAG staffers were on stand-by in case nine-month pregnant Catherine Zeta-Jones went into labor, thesp – feted by fellow actors for her portrayal of Velma Kelley in “Chicago” – insisted that she wasn’t going anywhere. “This is enough action for one evening,” she said. “The only thing I may be dropping tonight is this,” referring to her heavy supporting female actor statuette, which she had difficulty holding.

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Also commenting on the heaviness of the trophy was Christopher Walken, winner of supporting actor in a film – his first SAG nod. “Do you know how heavy this is?” he asked. “It’s nice, and I’m taking it home, but man, it’s heavy.” And as for his win, for playing Frank Abagnale Sr. in “Catch Me if You Can,” Walken said, “I have played a lot of villains in my time; it was nice to play a human being for once, and even nicer to be recognized for it.”

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“We gave the audience what they wanted – a human story,” said “Chicago” ensemble cast member and winner Richard Gere. “Humanity is what this film is all about. There are no redeeming characters – we were all scumbags – and there was no romance. Rob Marshall directed it human, and we played it human; that is what it was all about.”

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John C. Reilly took a moment to acknowledge the Broadway strike, saying, “The musical may have hit it home tonight, but Broadway needs to get back on its feet. It is a shame that the theaters are dark right now, and that must be rectified as soon as possible.”

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“Sopranos” actress Edie Falco, who nabbed her second SAG nod Sunday for her portrayal of Carmela Soprano, said, “Winning assures me that I really can play in this arena, and play well to boot; I was not always so sure of this in my early years as an actor.” When asked if she was concerned if the reality TV wave would continue to overpower the primetime lineup, Falco said, “No. Reality TV is not everyone’s fare. There will always be great writers, great actors, deliberate storytelling and thus, great shows to watch.”

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“Sopranos” thesp James Gandolfini, who picked up actor in a drama series kudos (like Falco, he won his first one in 2000), offered words of encouragement for young actors and then added, “Enjoy what you can now, because things can get pretty weird once it works.” The actor was alluding to his recent lawsuit against HBO seeking release from his contract. He thanked HBO and said he was sorry if he seemed ungrateful.

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First-time winner William H. Macy, who took the male actor (in a telefilm) category, took the podium and, once again, as he did onstage, reached inside his pocket and pulled out his SAG card. “I have had this for 30 years,” said the “Door to Door” actor. “It reminds me of just how long this journey has been. “This card is as important to me as my marriage and birth certificates.”

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“I can’t believe I tripped” were the first words out of Megan Mullally’s mouth, when she arrived backstage. Mullally, who took the TV comedy female actor nod for the second year in a row, blamed the fall on her devotion to Meryl Streep. “There are only two or three actresses who really awe me, and Meryl is one,” she said. “I saw her and all I remember was making eye contact as I headed for the stage, mouthing the words ‘I love you’ to her, and then whoops!”

When asked why she thinks she and “Will & Grace” cohort Sean Hayes were voted winners, Mullally said, “Our characters are often childlike and people like that; it allows them to get in touch with the kid in them.”

Asked the same question, Hayes, who took his respective category, added: “Sitcom characters are normally given a set of boundaries to work within, and Megan and I (our characters) are boundary free. It gives us more to work with.”

Hayes did say, though, that he was surprised by his win. “I won once before, so I was already good to go for life. This is icing.”

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Clint Eastwood, who received a lifetime achievement award, declared onstage, “I hope this doesn’t mean that I’m supposed to collect my pension and head on down the road ’cause that ain’t in the game for me.”

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