Javier Bardem, 'Sopranos' win SAG Awards

January 28, 2008 12:25:30 PM PST
Javier Bardem won the supporting-actor prize for "No Country for Old Men" and "The Sopranos" swept the TV drama categories Sunday at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, which could be the highlight of Hollywood's film-honors season if the writers strike undermines the Oscars. Ruby Dee won supporting actress for "American Gangster."

With the SAG awards a reliable forecast for who will win at the Academy Awards, Bardem and Dee's victories may establish them as favorites there. Bardem had kind words for Joel and Ethan Coen, who directed "No Country" and adapted the screenplay from Cormac McCarthy's novel.

"Thank you, guys, for hiring me, and thank you for taking the hard work of choosing the good takes instead of the ones where I really sucked," said Bardem, who won for his chilling role as a relentless killer tracking a fortune in missing drug money.

Dee shared fond thoughts of her late husband and frequent acting partner, Ossie Davis, who died in 2005. "I accept it also for my husband Ossie," the 83-year-old Dee said, "because he's working on things up there."

Though it wrapped several months ago, "The Sopranos" took all three TV drama categories to open the ceremony, with James Gandolfini and Edie Falco taking both lead-acting prizes and the entire ensemble joining them to accept the award for overall cast performance.

"Ten years ... I wish for everybody in every walk of life, but particularly for actors, to have the opportunity to have a work experience like I have had with my family here," Falco said. "You're not supposed to get this attached because it's a transient business. I have fallen in love with these people and I don't know how you walk away from that."

Minutes before, Gandolfini took the first trophy of the night in a star-studded ceremony something of an anomaly in this strike-hobbled awards season.

"This is our last official act as Sopranos together," Gandolfini said. "Here's to you guys. Thank you very much. It's been 10 years. It's been an honor. That's all I can say."

For comedy series, Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey were the lead-acting winners for "30 Rock," while "The Office" won for best ensemble.

Normally a lesser cousin to the Golden Globes and Oscars, the SAG Awards could end up being the biggest celebration this time around: The swanky Globes were canceled because of a strike by the Writers Guild of America, which refused to let its members work on the show, and the fate of the Oscars on Feb. 24 is in question because of the same labor quarrel.

Not so for the SAG honors. The actors union has been steadfast in support of striking writers, who in turn gave their blessing to the SAG ceremony.

Instead of the debacle for the Globes, which were curtailed to a star-free news conference after actors and filmmakers made it clear they would not cross writers' picket lines, the SAG ceremony came off with a full complement of Hollywood A-listers.

Early arrivals included Debra Messing and Christina Applegate, who ran right into each other on the red carpet. Ellen Page, nominated for an Oscar for her star turn as a pregnant schoolgirl in "Juno," chatted with reporters about her breakout year. And Adrian Grenier of "Entourage" turned the lens on his own entourage, photographing a friend with a small video camera he carried.

"We're really proud of the solidarity we've built with the Writers Guild," said Alan Rosenberg, SAG president. "Our members have understood that and taken it to heart. I was really moved by their decision not to go to the Golden Globes, our nominees. It's tough times, but it's been gratifying, as well."

Backstage, Fey said the writers strike leaves "30 Rock" at risk since the show is a critical success but not necessarily a huge hit with viewers.

"We are exactly the kind of show that's put in jeopardy by the strike," Fey said.

Plans for the SAG Awards included a bit more gloss than usual, with the ceremony marking the union's 75th anniversary. The show will feature chandeliers, arches, wallpaper and other decor harking back to the 1930s, when the guild was founded.

But the event wasn't without its issues the weather. Heavy rain soaked a section of the red carpet before organizers could get a clear, plastic tent around it to protect the cadre of stars that began arriving more than an hour before showtime. The rain let up, however, and rays of the setting sun began peeking through the storm clouds.

The obligatory package of clips to honor stars who died in the past year took on more immediacy, ending with a moment from "Brokeback Mountain" featuring Heath Ledger, who was found dead in his Manhattan loft last week. The cause of the 28-year-old actor's death had not yet been determined.

The guild presented its life-achievement award to Charles Durning, whose credits include "The Sting," "Tootsie" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

"There's nothing more gratifying than having an achievement award from one's peers," Durning said. "Over 50 years ago, I had the honor of working with some of the best actors, directors and writers in our industry. It's been a dream come true."

The guild's first-ever prizes for best stunt ensemble went to "The Bourne Ultimatum" for films and "24" for TV before the ceremony began.

On Saturday, "No Country" won top honors at the Directors Guild of America Awards for the Coen brothers; the winner there usually goes on to take home the directing Oscar. If it also wins the cast prize from the actors guild, "No Country" could emerge as the favorite to win best-picture at the Oscars.

As with the Golden Globes, the Writers Guild has made it clear that its members would not be allowed to work on the Oscars. While stars generally have said they would skip the show rather than cross picket lines, Oscar organizers insist their telecast will take place as scheduled.

Amy Ryan, a SAG and Oscar supporting-actress nominee for "Gone Baby Gone," said at the Directors Guild awards Saturday that she would not cross a picket line to attend the Oscars.

"I hope it ends but, more, I hope the writers get their due," Ryan said. "I think that, at the end of the day, is more important than a party. But I really hope it works out because I'd like to go to the party."