Complete list of Screen Actors Guild Awards winners
Cast: Slumdog Millionaire
Actor in a leading role: Sean Penn, Milk
Actress in a leading role: Meryl Streep, Doubt
Supporting actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Supporting actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader
Stunt ensemble: The Dark Knight
James Earl Jones
Drama series cast: Mad Men
Actor in a drama series: Hugh Laurie, House
Actress in a drama series: Sally Field, Brothers & Sisters
Comedy series cast: 30 Rock
Actor in a comedy series: Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Actress in a comedy series: Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Actor in a movie or miniseries: Paul Giamatti, John Adams
Actress in a movie or miniseries: Laura Linney, John Adams
Stunt ensemble: Heroes
Slumdog Millionaire moved into the pole position in the annual Academy Awards race, picking up the best ensemble cast prize at the 15th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Four of the past six best-picture Oscar winners also earned that SAG honor.
The cast of Slumdog Millionaire —almost entirely unknown to U.S. audiences, and several in their first movie — was chosen from a list of nominees nearly matching the recent Oscar nominations for best picture, including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
That film is the overall leader in Oscar nominations with 13, while Slumdog Millionaire is second with 10.
• • •
Nearly a half-hour passed before the first movie award, and that didn't do anything to clear up the Oscar forecast. Kate Winslet was voted best supporting female actor for The Reader although her performance is nominated for a best actress Academy Award.
Combine that with Meryl Streep's shocking win for Doubt in the best dramatic female actor race, and Oscar voters now officially have an interesting dilemma. A showdown between Winslet — winless after six previous Oscar nominations — vs. the most nominated actor in the academy's 81-year history, who already has two golden statuettes on her shelf.
The only sure thing after Winslet's win Sunday is that SAG nominee Amy Adams (Doubt) won't pick up an Oscar. She isn't nominated. The other three SAG nominees — Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Viola Davis (Doubt) and Penelope Cruz (Vicky Christina Barcelona) are in the Oscar running. Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler) grabbed the fifth slot but wasn't nominated for an Actor.
This is one of those situations when revealing vote totals — and none of the major awards shows do — could help in filling out Oscar pools. But how would it look if Adams finished second? The academy would be settling for thirds.
• • •
The shocked look on Streep's face when her name was announced was priceless and genuine. She didn't even dress up for the occasion, probably expecting Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road) or Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married) to claim the Actor, as professional guessers like me predicted.
"I didn't even buy a dress," Streep said in her acceptance speech, pulling at her pants suit and putting on the crowd: "I'm really, really, really shocked, even though awards mean nothing to me anymore."
Don't believe it. But Streep always likes to puncture the mystique that has enveloped her talent over the years. Her acceptance speech was another chance.
"Can I just say that there's no such thing as the best actress?" she said. "There's no such things as the best living actress. I am in a position where I have secret information that I know this to be true. I'm so in awe of the work of the women this year, nominated or not nominated. I'm so proud of us girls. Everybody wins when we get parts like this."
• • •
Almost as stunning as Streep's win was Sean Penn (Milk) grabbing the Actor for best dramatic actor, playing slain gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk. Penn has his own acceptance speech routine. Unlike Streep's modesty, Penn takes digs at opponents of his political beliefs.
"Thank you and good evening, comrades," Penn said at the podium, raising chuckles in the crowd. "That was for (Fox News anchor Bill) O'Reilly."
• • •
No surprise in the best supporting male actor balloting. Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight) won the best supporting film actor prize, still revered after dying of an accidental drug overdose a year ago. Co-star Gary Oldman has apparently been designated as his official award acceptor, after Sunday and the recent Golden Globes.
Oldman's respectful but dry comments about Ledger are nice. But they make one hope that rumors of Ledger's former wife, Michelle Williams, or a Ledger family member doing the honors at the Oscars come true. Viewers will need to wipe their TV screens with Kleenex.
• • •
You have to wonder why the Screen Actors Guild awards don't have a friendlier name, like Oscar, Emmy and Tony. They're simply called "Actors," which can sound redundant: "Here's your best actor Actor, actor."
Another oddity: The SAG show was simulcast on TNT and TBS, which is an odd idea since the ratings will be split and, really, what household that gets one of those channels doesn't get the other?
And while we're talking weirdness: As much as I'm pulling for Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) this awards season, would it kill him to buy a tux that doesn't look like Cirque du Soleil costume?
Steve Persall can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs.tampabay.com/movies.