When kudos concur

SAG, Acad share sense of sameness . . . except when they don't

A correction was made to this article on Feb. 20, 2004.

Since the SAG voting committee comprises a different collection of thesps than the actors branch at the Academy, it’s surprising how similar their selections really are.

A common belief is, “It’s the same pool of thesps voting,” but that just isn’t the case. SAG has made a concerted effort to be more democratic in its awards approach, and the Academy swims in a different pool.

As it turns out, there is 80% agreement for the 10 actor and supporting actor noms and 60% matches in both women’s acting categories this year. Most focus attention on performances in small-scale indie films about human issues and foibles.

“Let us not forget that the nominators in both SAG and the Academy — the working actors of Hollywood — are making these choices,” says critic Leonard Maltin. “They recognize where the great work is being done.”

“That the acceptance is coming from actors is very special, and the SAG honor is especially very specific,” says Charlize Theron, an actress nominee for both kudos for “Monster.” “These people are voting to recognize you for what you do in your field, in their field. Knowing that the SAG honor is coming from some of the people, the actors, who inspired you even makes it all that more inspiring.”

Both the 2,100-person SAG-nominating committee and 1,298-member actors branch of the Academy selected only six of the 20 noms from big studio fare.

In fact, two of the nominees for the picture Oscar, “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” are conspicuously absent of any acting nominations.

Ensemble efforts

However, “The Lord of the Rings” is nominated by SAG for cast in a motion picture, along with the ensembles from “In America,” “Mystic River,” “Seabiscuit” and “The Station Agent.”

“This is the best thing about the SAG Awards,” Maltin explains. “Here is the opportunity to honor the actors in ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ The Academy members looked at the film and recognized the strength of the ensemble and realized that it was impossible to pick one out without insulting the other. SAG solved any such problem by nominating ensembles. It’s a great idea that had been long overdue.”

Among the other major distinctions between the sets of nominations are:

  • SAG’s embrace of “The Station Agent” with an actor nom for Peter Dinklage and actress nod for Patricia Clarkson while the Oscars ignored the film.

  • Oscar’s embrace of “In America” with an actress nom for Samantha Morton and supporting mention for Djimon Hounsou while SAG gave it an ensemble cast nomination.

  • SAG’s dual noms for Clarkson (she received a supporting nomination for “Pieces of April”).

  • SAG’s acceptance of Evan Rachel Wood’s tough performance in “Thirteen” while both groups cited Holly Hunter playing her mother in the supporting category.

  • SAG’s citing Maria Bello in “The Cooler” for supporting actress while the Academy chose Shohreh Aghdashloo in “House of Sand and Fog.”

  • The Oscars’ nomination of Keisha Castle-Hughes in “Whale Rider” for actress while SAG feted the juvenile in the supporting actress category. (SAG nominees select the category in which they wish to be considered, unlike the Oscars.)

“In this case, the Academy voters considered her the lead of the film,” Maltin says. “The Oscar nominators weren’t buying any of that notion that juvenile performers tend to fare better in the supporting categories.”

Also nominated by SAG and the Oscars were Bill Murray in “Lost in Transition” and Ben Kingsley in “House of Sand and Fog” for actor, Diane Keaton in “Something’s Gotta Give” and Naomi Watts in “21 Grams” for actress, Renee Zellweger in “Cold Mountain” for best supporting actress, and Alec Baldwin in “The Cooler” and Benicio Del Toro in “21 Grams” for supporting actor.