'Nobbs,' 'Bridesmaids,' 'Descendants,' 'J. Edgar,' 'Moneyball,' 'Marilyn' nab noms

The Screen Actors Guild reinforced the kudos-season hopes of the stars of “The Help” as the pic led the pack of SAG Award nominees with a total of four bids.

“Help” is up for ensemble cast, along with noms for Viola Davis for lead actress and Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer for supporting actress.

The thesp tribe also gave a boost to “Bridesmaids,” with mentions for ensemble cast and Melissa McCarthy for supporting actress, and to the indie “A Better Life,” with Demian Bichir scoring a lead actor nomination.

“It’s a huge surprise in one way and not so much in another because I’ve always wanted people to know my work,” Bichir told Variety. “It’s a tremendous honor since it’s from a place where there are so many great actors.”

“The Artist,” among the most-lauded films by critics groups and other orgs so far in the kudos derby, fared well with SAG, too, scoring three nominations including ensemble cast, lead actor Jean Dujardin and supporting actress Berenice Bejo.

Competing against “Help,” “Bridesmaids” and “Artist” in the ensemble cast heat are “The Descendants” and “Midnight in Paris.”

With actors comprising over 20% of the voters (1,172 of 5,783) in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the SAG nominations are a closely watched indicator of Oscar sentiment.

“The King’s Speech” won the SAG cast award last January and went on to win the Oscar for best picture; SAG acting winners Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo all took Oscars in February.

Two noms each went to “Albert Nobbs,” “The Descendants,” “J. Edgar,” “Moneyball” and “My Week With Marilyn,” while single SAG mentions went to “A Better Life,” “Beginners,” “The Iron Lady,” “Midnight in Paris,” “Warrior” and “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”

Besides Dujardin and Bichir, lead actor noms went to a trio of Hollywood heavyweights: George Clooney for “The Descendants,” Leonardo DiCaprio for “J. Edgar” and Brad Pitt for “Moneyball.” Besides Davis, lead actress noms went to Glenn Close for “Albert Nobbs,” Meryl Streep for “The Iron Lady,” Tilda Swinton for “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and Michelle Williams for “My Week With Marilyn.”

Close was also nominated for lead actress in a TV drama series for DirecTV’s “Damages.” Kathy Bates was also among the thesps who nabbed multiple noms, as part of the ensemble of “Midnight in Paris” and lead actress in a drama for NBC’s “Harry’s Law.”

All told, SAG’s smallscreen noms went to mostly familiar faces. The big exception was Patrick J. Adams, star of the first-year USA Network drama “Suits.” He’ll compete for lead actor honors against Kyle Chandler (“Friday Night Lights”), Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”), Michael C. Hall (“Dexter”) and defending champ Steve Buscemi (“Boardwalk Empire”).

Jessica Lange nabbed a lead drama actress nom for FX’s edgy “American Horror Story.” She’ll compete against Bates, Close, Kyra Sedgwick (“The Closer”) and the reigning champ in the category, Julianna Margulies of “The Good Wife.”

“Modern Family” dominated in TV noms with five, with individual actor bids for Ty Burrell, Eric Stone-street, Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara as well as a nom for ensemble comedy cast, which it won this year.

Competing against “Modern Family” on the comedy side are “30 Rock,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Glee” and “The Office.” On the drama front, with reigning champ “Mad Men” ineligible for the race, noms went to “Boardwalk Empire,” “Breaking Bad,” “Dexter,” “Game of Thrones” and “The Good Wife.”

Betty White, who was feted with SAG’s 2010 lifetime achievement award and a comedy trophy for “Hot in Cleveland,” remained a fave among thesps with noms for “Cleveland” and “Hallmark Hall of Fame: The Lost Valentine” in the miniseries category. White will compete against “Modern Family’s” Bowen and Vergara, “30 Rock’s” Tina Fey and Edie Falco for “Nurse Jackie.”

Steve Carell received his sixth consecutive nomination in the comedy series field for his final season of “The Office.” He’s up against “Modern Family’s” Burrell and Stone-street, “30 Rock’s” Alec Baldwin and “Two and a Half Men’s” Jon Cryer.

In film, the supporting actor category offered a mix of veterans — Kenneth Branagh in “My Week With Marilyn,” Nick Nolte in “Warrior” and Christopher Plummer in “Beginners” — and relative newcomers with Armie Hammer in “J. Edgar” and Jonah Hill in “Moneyball.” Hill, who was in Atlanta shooting “Neighborhood Watch,” noted he was particularly pleased that the nomination came for an under-stated portrayal.

“Actors are the ones who really know what it takes to do something subtle, so I’m incredibly proud of the nomination,” Hill noted. “For this part, I’m not freaking out.”

The supporting actress category saw McCarthy of “Bridesmaids” and Janet McTeer of “Albert Nobbs” join Bejo, Chastain and Spencer. McTeer was nommed in 2000 for “Tumbleweeds” while the other supporting actress contenders are first-time nominees.

“It’s been a crazy time because I’ve been running around doing promotion for the past two months,” said Bejo, who was at the Four Seasons in West Hollywood. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing so it’s really worth it.”

The SAG nominations are based on voting by two panels — one for film and one for TV — each composed of 2,100 randomly selected guild members. Winners, based on voting by SAG’s 120,000 members, will be announced Jan. 29 in ceremonies at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. In order for their votes to count, SAG members must be dues-current and vote by Jan. 27.

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