HOLLYWOOD — “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” took home the Actor for ensemble in a motion picture at the 10th annual SAG Awards Sunday at the Shrine Auditorium.
Highlighting the diversity of the evening, Charlize Theron plucked the actress prize for her work in the serial killer drama “Monster,” while Johnny Depp took home the actor trophy for his comic turn as Capt. Jack Sparrow in Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”
In the supporting thesp category, “Cold Mountain” winner Renee Zellweger called the actor-driven kudocast “the nicest invitation of the year,” while Tim Robbins took home the supporting actor prize for “Mystic River.” He held aloft SAG’s naked Actor statuette and joked, “Susan (Sarandon) has got one of these. I want to get them alone in a dark room and see what happens.”
HBO continued its winning streak in the primetime television category as Actor statuettes quickly accrued for the cabler in the kudocast’s first hour. “Sex and the City” capped off its six-year run with a win for its ensemble cast, accepted by a fuchsia-wrapped Kristin Davis flanked by Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall. The cast of “Six Feet Under” looked lively picking up the drama ensemble award, edging out broadcast network nominees “The West Wing,” “CSI,” “Law & Order” and “Without a Trace.”
Counting down to Oscar
The SAG’s kudocast, normally a final, frenzied huzzah before the Oscars, found itself in an unusual place this year. Owing to the month-earlier Academy Awards broadcast date, the SAG Awards are unable to provide the usual Oscar-campaign boost to nominees, as all Acad ballots are due in by 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Moreover, the SAG kudos may not be the Oscar bellwether they once were thought to be. Actors, after all, make up almost a quarter of the Academy membership. This year, SAG rethought its nominating committee, with fewer members located in New York and Los Angeles and therefore a smaller overlap with Acad members. The duplication of the two voting groups now has fallen to 10% from about 50%.
As it turned out, the bigger factor impinging on the SAG Awards seemed to be film studios’ inability or unwillingness to provide the SAG nomination committee with screeners for its big award contenders, given their anti-piracy initiatives.
Not an indicator
SAG’s ensemble cast award is notoriously bad at indicating what the Academy will elect as best picture. The ensemble kudos have matched the Oscar for picture only three times: Last year’s “Chicago” as well as “Shakespeare in Love” five years ago and “American Beauty” four years ago.
Accordingly, the “Lord of the Rings” win may or may not portend a haul of hardware come Oscar night.
But the SAG Awards for lead actor and actress have proven far better predictors, matching the Oscars’ choices in six of the last nine years. Last year, SAG diverged for the second year in a row, granting its Actor award to Daniel Day-Lewis for “Gangs of New York” while Adrien Brody went on to win the Oscar. Similarly, Zellweger took the actress prize for “Chicago,” while Nicole Kidman took home the Oscar. Both lead actor winners at the SAG awards — Depp and Theron — are nominated in the categories for Oscars.
Last year, the SAG supporting actor trophies split the difference when compared with Oscar’s choice for the same category: Catherine Zeta-Jones won both the SAG Award and the Oscar for supporting actress, while supporting actor SAG award winner Christopher Walken would be unseated by Chris Cooper in “Adaptation.”
Going into labor
Sunday’s acceptance speeches weren’t all glib talk of thanking mommies and agents. Depp, who lives in France, passed on attending altogether. And while Theron did thank her mother, who “put me on a plane with a one-way ticket to Hollywood when I was 19 years old,” it was ex-hobbit Sean Astin who uttered the sternest words of the evening.
“I’m worried about the labor movement in our country,” said Astin, the progeny of past SAG prexy Patty Duke. In an unusually candid and public admission of how contentious and fractious the Screen Actor Guild membership can be, he exhorted the union membership “to pay attention to our union when it’s not the awards show. There is internecine strife, there is controversy. Some of us make a lot more money than others of us, but I think we need to be involved, or the union will not endure.”
Robbins paid a tongue-in-cheek compliment to SAG, noting, “Without unions, we’d be working 18-hour days, six days a week,” to great laughter. He then turned serious, citing the dependence of working actors on domestic productions, imploring “the power in this room” to stem the tide of runaway production and to “bring back some of those productions into the United States of America.”
She’s a poet
Rare is the thank-you speech that rhymes “cuticle” with “political,” but on Sunday, Meryl Streep did just that. Breaking into rhymed couplets, she claimed the female actor in a TV movie or miniseries statuette for her perf in “Angels in America.” She bested her co-stars and fellow “Angels” nominees Mary Louise Parker and Emma Thompson, as well as “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone” co-stars Anne Bancroft and Helen Mirren.
Tony Shalhoub, who claimed the prize for performance by a male actor in a comedy series for “Monk,” drew yuks for his candor: “Thank you so much, I am so deeply … unprepared.”
Kiefer Sutherland, male actor in a drama series winner for “24,” kept things brief, sharing an anecdote about the time he’d watched his mother performing in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”: “Sometime between the first and second act, I forgot my mother was playing Martha…”
But it was Karl Malden who received thunderous applause from a packed Shrine as the recipient of the guild’s Lifetime Achievement award. Bowed a bit by age, but still speaking with his distinctively authoritative voice, he recounted reading about acting in a magazine he found in Broadway’s Belasco theater in 1937.
” ‘An actor spreads culture, his profession has dignity. … If he respects his profession, he makes others respect it,” Malden recounted, as actors young and old looked on rapt.
“I was always proud to be an actor, and at this time, especially, at this moment especially … this is the peak for me,” Malden said, before shuffling offstage with his old “Streets of San Francisco” co-star Michael Douglas.
Johnny Depp — “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” (Buena Vista)
Charlize Theron — “Monster” (Newmarket)
Tim Robbins — “Mystic River”
Renee Zellweger — “Cold Mountain” (Miramax)
“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” — Sean Astin, Sean Bean, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Bernard Hill, Ian Holm, Ian McKellen, Dominic Monaghan, Viggo Mortensen, John Noble, Miranda Otto, John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis, Liv Tyler, Karl Urban, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham, Elijah Wood (New Line)
Actor in a Telefilm or Miniseries
Al Pacino — “Angels in America” (HBO)
Actress in a Telefilm or Miniseries
Meryl Streep — “Angels in America”
Actor in a Drama Series
Kiefer Sutherland — “24” (Fox)
Actress in a Drama Series
Frances Conroy — “Six Feet Under” (HBO)
Actor in a Comedy Series
Tony Shalhoub — “Monk” (USA)
Actress in a Comedy Series
Megan Mullally — “Will & Grace” (NBC)
“Six Feet Under” — Lauren Ambrose, Frances Conroy, Ben Foster, Rachel Griffiths, Michael C. Hall, Peter Krause, Peter Macdissi, Justina Machado, Freddy Rodriguez, Mathew St. Patrick, Lili Taylor, Rainn Wilson
“Sex and the City” — Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Sarah Jessica Parker (HBO)
Life Achievement Award