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SAG Awards: Behind the scenes

Backstage Notes

Helen Mirren, honored yet again for her portrayal of Elizabeth I in HBO’s miniseries, said she was enjoying “my best professional year,” but was coy when she was asked if she’d now like to win an Oscar. “I would never answer that question. If you’d asked me that question 10 years ago, I’d have said it was my dream to win an Oscar – it’s the mother of all awards.”

She was more direct about the telepic being passed over by the BAFTAs, calling it “a disgrace. Not speaking personally, but for the whole piece of ‘Elizabeth,'” she said. “It was a superb piece of work.”

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Asked how he could be a supporting actor at the Golden Globes and a lead actor at the SAG Awards in the same part, Jeremy Irons said flatly that his role in HBO’s “Elizabeth,” which won both, “was a supporting role.”

“The leading performance was Helen (Mirren’s) – no doubt about that. The character supported the queen and I supported Helen.”

He expanded on his acceptance speech, saying American and British actors have much to learn from each other. “American actors are wonderful at film work and we have a wonderful theatrical tradition at home. I try to find a sort of mid-Atlantic position.”

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The SAG Award-winning ensemble of “The Office” insisted they really, truly, do get along as well offstage as on. “We’re literally locked in a office for 60 hours a week,” said Brian Baumgartner. “We have to get along.”

Rainn Wilson said they don’t spend all their time on the set just talking to each other. “We surf the Web, and oftentimes you’ll find us in John Krasinksi’s trailer playing Madden 07 on Xbox.”

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America Ferrera, reprising her Globes win as lead actress for “Ugly Betty,” said she hasn’t been flooded with scripts since winning that prize. “I think the common misperception is that this job gets easy, and it doesn’t. … You get in more doors. It’s nice that I have more options than before the Golden Globes.”

She has become an example of a different kind of beauty, but she admits that, after work, “I definitely take more joy in getting pretty. I enjoy getting out of the Betty-wear and dressing up.”

Her friends don’t ask her for beauty tips, however: “I’m not the one to call,” she says.

* * *

“I was stunned this evening to see some of the footage they found,” said Dame Julie Andrews backstage after her lifetime tribute. “It was stuff I haven’t seen in a long time, stuff I didn’t even know existed.”

Her advice for actors: “If my life is any guide, the chances are if you work very hard, a piece of good fortune will pass your way, but you’d better be ready for it. So do your homework.”

Of receiving the SAG honor, she said, “To be honored by all those people collectively is very humbling. It makes me feel somehow undeserving. But I’ll get over it.

* * *

Told that his “Dreamgirls” pompadour had revived the fashion, Eddie Murphy declared, “I won’t be wearing one.” He said the cast was surprised the pic didn’t get a best picture nom from the Academy, but “I was so happy to be nominated that I wasn’t feeling disappointed about anything. I was caught off-guard that we didn’t get nominated for best picture, but I’ve been nonstop happy.”

* * *

Forest Whitaker, looking svelte, downplayed the difficulty of adding weight to play Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland.” “I just do whatever is necessary. Whatever is right for the part, I do.”

He recalled the lean times early in his career, when he wasn’t sure he was even good enough to be in movies. “I was lucky, because when I was young I didn’t really care. I could live on somebody’s couch and live on ramen. My friends and my family were more concerned than I was.”

Now, he says, he’s more concerned about finding something to play. “And when you have a family, it’s about how you take care of your family.”

* * *

Helen Mirren said that while she wasn’t exactly surprised to be honored as leading actress in a film, she called the feeling “a tsunami effect. I’m still reeling from the whole night.”

Of her domination of the acting kudos this year, she said, “I’m sure there are some actresses out there saying, ‘Get that woman out of my face, I wish she’d go away’ this year anyway.”

But she said she gets along well with her fellow Oscar nominees. “Judi and Meryl and I did an interview together, and it was such fun to speak on a level with those extraordinary, legendary actresses. And I’ve been with Penelope a couple of evenings and she’s a lovely girl and one of my goddesses anyway.”

* * *

As the winning ensemble of “Little Miss Sunshine” appeared together backstage, Steve Carell recalled taking a road trip in character during rehearsals for the film. “In the back of the van, Alan (Arkin) was saying, ‘I’ve gotta pee, I’ve gotta pee.’ We were all doing our improvs but he was quiet, but then every now and then you’d hear, ‘Oh God, I’ve gotta pee.”‘ Which is pretty much his character.”

Arkin, though, said he’s confused by the very idea of an “ensemble movie.”

“Either a movie is an ensemble movie or it’s a star vehicle, and I don’t like star vehicles. If someone is sticking out, there’s something wrong with it. Every great movie is an ensemble movie. Like Renoir, Kurosawa, Fellini. We live in a time when you remember one or two characters and the rest are thrown in there like a wash. And this movie, thank God, is not like that.”

Related stories: Complete Winners List
SAG Awards bask in ‘Sunshine’