Hollywood thesps have thrown a curve into the awards season calculus, giving Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” the Screen Actors Guild ensemble cast award.
“Hurt Locker” and “Precious” had been perceived as the front-runners. “Basterds” — which also topped “An Education” and “Nine” — offered the biggest surprise of Saturday’s 16th annual SAG awards show at the Shrine.
Its victory, announced by George Clooney at the conclusion of the two-hour gala, represents a serious boost to its Oscar chances given that actors represent more than 20% of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ 5,777 voting members. Based on voting by SAG’s 100,000 members, the guild’s choice for ensemble award has been a hit-and-miss indicator as it’s matched the best picture Oscar in seven of the last 14 years, including last year, when “Slumdog Millionaire” won both trophies.
Tarantino’s offbeat WWII epicstarred Brad Pitt but featured a cast including Christoph Waltz, Melanie Laurent, Diane Kruger and Michael Fassbender.
In his acceptance speech on behalf of the cast, Eli Roth acknowledged the international nature of the cast and said, “For every actor out there, we just want you to know that whether you are Brad Pitt — one of the biggest stars in the world — or someone who has never acted in a motion picture, your vote is a vote for Quentin Tarantino, who, if he feels you are right for the part, he will give it to you. And Quentin, your belief in us lets us rise to the occasion and brings out the best in all of us.”
Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock added to their awards season momentum as they took the lead acting awards for “Crazy Heart” and “The Blind Side.” And Mo’Nique and Waltz continued to dominate in the supporting categories with trophies for “Precious” and “Basterds.”
Nearly all SAG winners repeated their Golden Globes victories in the same categories six days earlier, but neither of the Globes feature winners — “Avatar” for drama and “The Hangover” for comedy — was in contention at the SAG awards. “Up in the Air,” which came away empty-handed after being nommed for three individual SAG awards, wasn’t up for the SAG cast prize either.
Bridges and Bullock, who both took Globes a week ago, are emerging as strong Oscar contenders, with nominations set to be announced Feb. 2. Bridges topped Clooney for “Up in the Air,” Colin Firth for “A Single Man,” Morgan Freeman for “Invictus” and Jeremy Renner for “The Hurt Locker” while Bullock topped Helen Mirren (“The Last Station”), Carey Mulligan (“An Education”), Gabourey Sidibe (“Precious”) and Meryl Streep (“Julie and Julia”).
Bridges, who portrays a hard-drinking country singer in “Crazy Heart,” went well past the 45-second time limit in his acceptance as he gave multiple thanks to family, writer-director Scott Cooper, cast members, T Bone Burnett and his voice coach. “I love being an actor, pretending to be other people,” he added.
Bullock noted in her acceptance that she had departed from acting six years ago because she believed she wasn’t doing good work — before she was cast in “Crash,” which won the SAG ensemble award in 2005. She credited her fellow SAG members with inspiring her to seek out projects such as “The Blind Side.”
“I wanted to do something that sets me on fire, and I never expected this,” Bullock said backstage.
Mo’Nique, who won the Golden Globe in the same category a week ago, topped Penelope Cruz (“Nine”) Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick (“Up in the Air”) and Diane Kruger (“Basterds”). Backstage, she said she was proudest that the film pushes people to deal with abuse.
Waltz, continuing his winning streak for his work as a conniving Nazi officer in “Basterds,” said backstage that he had not expected to win. “The first impression is utter bafflement,” he added. “I try not to take stuff for granted. I really am indebted, especially to Quentin Tarantino.”
He topped Matt Damon (“Invictus”), Woody Harrelson (“The Messenger”), Christopher Plummer (“The Last Station”) and Stanley Tucci (“The Lovely Bones”).
Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey of “30 Rock” won the individual comedy series awards — the fourth consecutive nod for Baldwin and third in a row for Fey.
And newcomer “Glee” drew the ensemble comedy series kudo, denying “30 Rock” a second consecutive win. Individual drama series nods went to Julianna Margulies for “The Good Wife” and Michael C. Hall for “Dexter,” denying Hugh Laurie a third SAG award for “House.”
“Mad Men” won the ensemble drama series award for the second consecutive year, topping “The Closer,” “Dexter,” “The Good Wife” and “True Blood.” The TV movie-miniseries awards went to Drew Barrymore for “Grey Gardens” and Kevin Bacon for “Taking Chance.”
Several of the TV winners had won a Golden Globe last Sunday, including the casts of “Glee” and “Mad Men,” Barrymore, Bacon, Baldwin, Hall and Margulies.
Betty White received a pair of standing ovations from the audience as she was presented with SAG’s life achievement award by Sandra Bullock, her co-star on “The Proposal.”
“Star Trek” and “24” won Screen Actors Guild honors for stunt ensembles. The awards were announced prior to the start of the gala.
And the winners are:
MALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”
FEMALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”
MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”
FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Mo’Nique, “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
CAST IN A MOTION PICTURE
STUNT ENSEMBLE IN A MOTION PICTURE
MALE ACTOR IN A TELEVISION MOVIE OR MINISERIES
Kevin Bacon, “Taking Chance”
FEMALE ACTOR IN A TELEVISION MOVIE OR MINISERIES
Drew Barrymore, “Grey Gardens”
MALE ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Michael C. Hall, “Dexter”
FEMALE ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife”
MALE ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock”
FEMALE ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Tina Fey, “30 Rock”
ENSEMBLE IN A DRAMA SERIES
Jared S. Gilmore
ENSEMBLE IN A COMEDY SERIES
Harry Shum Jr.
STUNT ENSEMBLE IN A TELEVISION SERIES
LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD