Hollywood actors showered support on “The Help,” giving the ensemble drama a trio of Screen Actors Guild trophies for ensemble, lead actress Viola Davis and supporting actress Octavia Spencer.
Thesps also showed affection for “The Artist,” giving Jean Dujardin the acting award in what’s one of the most closely contested categories. Christopher Plummer won the male supporting actor trophy for “Beginners.”
An emotional Davis received the cast and best actress trophies back to back at the end of Sunday night’s ceremonies at the Shrine Auditorium.
“It’s been such a joy to be a part of this cast,” she said in her second acceptance speech of the evening. “All of us can inspire change — every single one of us.”
The SAG cast award — an- nounced by Brad Pitt — brightens the Oscar prospects for “The Help” as the winner has matched the best picture Oscar winner eight times in the last 16 years, most recently last year when “The King’s Speech” took home an Actor and an Oscar. In 2009, the two groups diverged when “Inglourious Basterds” won the SAG trophy and “The Hurt Locker” took best picture.
Although “The Help” and “The Artist” have been a part of the trophy conversation for months, Sunday’s wins bring more clarity to a race that has been characterized as lacking frontrunners. “The Help” — which has grossed $170 million domestically for DreamWorks/Touchstone — won the cast award over the Weinstein Co.’s”The Artist,” Universal’s “Bridesmaids,” Fox Searchlight’s “The Descendants” and Sony Classics’ “Midnight in Paris.”
Davis and Spencer were forecasted favorites, but a few surprises emerged — the biggest being Dujardin winning over George Clooney in “The Descendants.”
Davis topped two actresses who had won Golden Globes, besting Meryl Streep (“Iron Lady”) and Michelle Williams (“My Week With Marilyn”)
Spencer’s early win for “The Help” portended a big night for the civil-rights drama. All five SAG nominees, including Spencer’s castmate Jessica Chastain, also received Oscar nominations in the supporting category.
Plummer added another award to his string this season for Focus Features’ “Beginners.” He’s also won the National Board of Review, a Golden Globe and at Critics’ Choice.
The nominations in SAG’s four acting categories matched 17 out of the 20 Academy Award noms announced last week. The guild awards are closely watched during awards season because the acting branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is the largest voting contingent for the Oscars with more than 20% of AMPAS voters.
Among SAG’s eight TV-acting categories, Alec Baldwin was a big winner as he racked up his sixth consecutive victory in the lead comedy actor category for NBC’s “30 Rock” and mounted the stage by yelling “omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod.”
“Boardwalk Empire” took the most trophies in the TV category as the second season of the HBO series repeated for drama cast and for Steve Buscemi as top drama actor.
Betty White repeated with a win as comedy actress for TV Land’s “Hot in Cleveland,” denying Tina Fey a fourth SAG Award for “30 Rock.”
ABC’s “Modern Family” kept up the trend of repeaters, winning its second straight comedy series award for the 11-member cast — all who came on stage for their acceptance.
Jessica Lange won the drama actress kudo for FX’s “American Horror Story.” Paul Giamatti took the miniseries actor award for HBO’s “Too Big to Fail” while Kate Winslet won the actress category for that cabler’s “Mildred Pierce.”
Mary Tyler Moore was honored with the 48th annual Life Achievement Award at the ceremony.
The SAG Awards were broadcast live on TNT and TBS.
Jean Dujardin — “The Artist”
Viola Davis — “The Help”
Christopher Plummer — “Beginners”
Octavia Spencer — “The Help”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”
Steve Buscemi — “Boardwalk Empire”
Jessica Lange — “American Horror Story”
Alec Baldwin — “30 Rock”
Betty White — “Hot in Cleveland”
ACTOR IN A TV MOVIE/MINISERIES
Paul Giamatti — “Too Big to Fail”
ACTRESS IN A TV MOVIE/MINISERIES
Kate Winslet — “Mildred Pierce”
“Game of Thrones”
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Mary Tyler Moore