No matter who wins at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, it will be a surprise. That’s because there aren’t many obvious frontrunners in either the TV or film categories at this year’s competition.
Around 160,000 members from across the country vote for the SAG Awards, and with such a large voting body, members frequently give the ensemble awards in TV and film to nominees with the largest, most accomplished casts — but not always — and have been known to gravitate toward crowd pleasers over critical acclaim.
But it’s still a good sign of what actors, who represent a large chunk of the Academy voting body, are thinking as the awards calendar creeps closer to the Oscars.
On the film side, Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” and Jay Roach’s “Bombshell” dominating nods on the film front, while “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” led all nominations on the TV side, with four nods, followed by “The Crown,” “Fleabag,” “Game of Thrones,” “The Kominsky Method,” “The Morning Show” and “Stranger Things,” with three each.
This year’s SAG Awards take place at the Shrine Auditorium on Sunday, and return to the show’s original no-host format. Robert De Niro will be honored with this year’s life achievement award.
Here are Variety’s predictions on how each race might shake out.
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
All the nominees are also Oscar nominated, with the exception of Lupita Nyong’o for “Us.” And while Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet”), Scarlett Johansson (“Marriage Story”) and Charlize Theron (“Bombshell”) all delivered great turns, the prize has been Renee Zellweger’s to lose since she burst onto the festival scene with her stunning, heart-wrenching turn in “Judy.” The fact that she not only channels Judy Garland (seen here in her final days, attempting to make a comeback with a show in London), but does her own singing is just icing on a flawless cake.
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
The only sure things in this category all season have been Adam Driver (“Marriage Story”) and Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”), and that’s who it will ultimately come down to on SAG Awards night. In the end, Christian Bale (“Ford v Ferrari”) and Taron Egerton (“Rocketman”) landed SAG noms, but didn’t make the cut for Oscar in a crazy competitive year. Leonardo DiCaprio (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”) delivered a fantastic turn, but won recently for “The Revenant.” Phoenix just clinched Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Award wins and his film grossed over $1 billion. Even those who took issue with the movie lauded his performance. He’s also seen as overdue, having been nominated at SAG five times and never won. But Driver is not only a highly regarded actor, he has been a charming presence on the circuit this season. Phoenix has the edge for now, but don’t be surprised if Driver’s name is called.
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Scarlett Johansson lands another nom here for “Jojo Rabbit” and “Bombshell” co-stars Margot Robbie and Nicole Kidman deliver great work. But Laura Dern has been an awards season juggernaut for her role as a savvy divorce lawyer in “Marriage Story,” picking up Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe wins, and is almost surely on her way to finally winning an Oscar. The only possible hiccup? Jennifer Lopez was overlooked for an Oscar nomination and the groundswell of support could put her over the top. Last year’s winner, Emily Blunt in “A Quiet Place,” won after being snubbed for Oscars for that film and “Mary Poppins Returns.” Similarly, Idris Elba won male actor in a supporting role for 2015’s “Beasts of No Nation” after missing out on an Oscar nom. Lopez could end up being the upset of the night, but the smart money is on Dern.
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
It’s a category full of previous Oscar and SAG winners — Al Pacino and Joe Pesci return to the race for “The Irishman” while Tom Hanks channels Mister Rogers in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” and Jamie Foxx delivers his best work in years in “Just Mercy.” Brad Pitt has an Oscar for producing “12 Years a Slave” and a SAG Award as a member of the “Inglourious Basterds” ensemble, but has never won either prize for an individual performance. Expect both to change this year as the megastar brought his easygoing charm to the role of stuntman Cliff Booth in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” for which he’s already won Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe awards. Wonder how Rick Dalton will feel about that…?
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Simply impossible to call. “Bombshell” has strong support, as indicated by its four SAG Award nominations, more than any other film. “The Irishman” is a flawless ensemble full of legends from Robert De Niro to Al Pacino. “Jojo Rabbit” has a passionate fan base and a style unlike any other film in the race. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” has a sprawling and starry cast. And “Parasite” is so beloved, it became only the second foreign-language film ever to land a nod here, since “Life Is Beautiful.” In the end, it’s a coin toss on who to pick and since it’s not nominated anywhere else, we’re going with “Parasite.”
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Olivia Colman hasn’t yet won a SAG Award, but her “The Crown” character has. Claire Foy won two female actor drama SAG Awards as Queen Elizabeth II in “The Crown’s” freshman and sophomore seasons, and now Colman is nominated for taking over the role in Season 3. Colman, who is also nominated as part of “The Crown” and “Fleabag” casts, is the frontrunner in this category, while Emmy winner Jodie Comer (“Killing Eve”) could also follow in the footsteps of her co-star Sandra Oh, who won last year. “The Morning Show’s” Jennifer Aniston could surprise, given her star power, while “The Handmaid’s Tale” star Elisabeth Moss was nominated for a consecutive third award, but does not yet have a win. “The Crown’s” Helena Bonham Carter is a long shot.
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Is this the year Peter Dinklage finally lands the SAG Award for drama male actor? The “Game of Thrones” star has been nominated for the award six times in the past seven years (only missing last year due to ineligibility), but hasn’t yet won the category. He’s up against previous winner Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”) and previous nominee “Stranger Things” star David Harbour, both of whom have a shot. “The Morning Show” stars Steve Carell and Billy Crudup might cancel each other out. Last year’s winner, “Ozark” star Jason Bateman, is not nominated this year.
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
She won the Emmy, she won the Golden Globe and now Phoebe Waller-Bridge is on tap to win the SAG Award as well. The competition includes last year’s winner, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” star Rachel Brosnahan, so at least the win will stay inside the Amazon Prime Video family. Waller-Bridge will easily beat fellow nominees Alex Borstein (“Mrs. Maisel”), Catherine O’Hara (“Schitt’s Creek”) and “Dead to Me’s” Christina Applegate.
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
The SAG Awards loves Tony Shalhoub. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” star won this category twice in the early 2000s (for “Monk”) and again last year, for “Maisel.” His real competition is “Barry” star Bill Hader, who didn’t win last year (but was up against his co-star Henry Winkler; this year, he’s not). “The Kominsky Method” stars Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin will likely cancel each other out; that leaves “Fleabag” star and “hot priest” Andrew Scott — who could ride the “Fleabag” momentum to a surprise win.
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Emmy winner Jharrel Jerome (“When They See Us”) wasn’t nominated for a Golden Globe, but he’s back as a frontrunner for the SAG Award in this category. Much like Darren Criss beat out a field of household names last year, Jerome could prevail over huge names such as Globes winner Russell Crowe (“The Loudest Voice”), who is another top contender. “Chernobyl” star Jared Harris has seen his limited series win multiple kudos, while Mahershala Ali (“True Detective”) is an awards favorite, having won two SAG Awards as an individual, for “Moonlight” and “Green Book,” but this latest edition of “True Detective” hasn’t generated awards. “Fosse/Verdon” star Sam Rockwell is also a long shot.
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
But while Rockwell is unlikely to win the SAG Award, his co-star, Michelle Williams, is likely to repeat her Emmy and Golden Globes wins for “Fosse/Verdon.” Patricia Arquette has also been on a streak for “The Act,” and could surprise. Less likely for this category are Toni Collette (“Unbelievable”), Joey King (“The Act”) and Emily Watson (“Chernobyl”).
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
After two years of wins, “This Is Us” won’t make it a three-peat: It missed a nomination this year. Another previous winner, “Stranger Things,” is back in the running — but “The Crown,” which hasn’t yet won the drama ensemble prize yet, feels like the natural successor to the SAG Awards’ love of “Downton Abbey” (which won it three times). “Game of Thrones” hasn’t yet won the top prize, despite its massive cast and six previous nominations; but the show’s final season wasn’t well received, and voters have likely moved on. That leaves “Big Little Lies” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” both worthy casts, but less likely to take the top prize.
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
Waller-Bridge’s awards shelf is getting crowded, and the SAG Awards will likely add to that collection, as Emmy and Globe winner “Fleabag” is probably in line to also pick up this award. That’s good news for Amazon Prime Video, which also won last year for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” “Maisel” is back among the contenders, but it will have to settle for next year, when “Fleabag” is no longer eligible. Other favorites in the mix include “Barry,” “Schitt’s Creek” and “The Kominsky Method,” but there’s no stopping “Fleabag.”
The Screen Actors Guild Awards airs live on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on TBS and TNT.