Alejandro González Iñárritu's critically acclaimed film weaving together four seemingly disconnected story lines earned a nod for its ensemble cast, which includes Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett as a couple whose trip to Morocco takes a tragic turn.
It also earned nominations in the supporting female actor category for Adriana Barraza, as a Mexican nanny in Southern California; and Rinko Kikuchi, as a deaf-mute Japanese teenager struggling to deal with her mother's suicide.
"Babel" has made only $20.1 million at the box office in the U.S. but it has been a strong contender this awards season. Besides the three SAG award nominations, it has received the most Golden Globe nods with seven and was recognized as one of the top films of the year by the Producers Guild of America.
Though no film dominated the SAG Award nominations, "Babel" led the feature film nominees along with "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Dreamgirls," which both also earned three nods apiece.
A dark, quirky comedy about a dysfunctional family, "Little Miss Sunshine" received nominations for best supporting female actor for young Abigail Breslin, supporting male actor for Alan Arkin and best ensemble.
Like "Babel," the indie "Little Miss Sunshine" is also proving itself to be a force this award season. Before the Screen Actors Guild award announcements, it had received five Film Independent's Spirit Award nominations, two Golden Globe nominations as well as a nomination for Producer of the Year.
"Dreamgirls," the lavish musical about a '60s R&B group, picked up nominations for supporting actor for Eddie Murphy, supporting actress for Jennifer Hudson and also best ensemble.
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Steve Carell and Leonardo DiCaprio earned the most nominations among performers, with three apiece.
DiCaprio was nominated for outstanding actor as a South African mercenary in "Blood Diamond" and as a supporting actor as an undercover Boston cop infiltrating the mob in "The Departed."
He was also nominated as part of "The Departed's" ensemble. Notably, DiCaprio is nominated for a Golden Globe for his role in each movie, but the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. deemed both performances as leads.
Vying with DiCaprio for male actor in a leading role are Ryan Gosling for "Half Nelson," Peter O'Toole for "Venus," Will Smith for "The Pursuit of Happyness" and Forest Whitaker for "The Last King of Scotland."
Carell was nominated for outstanding male actor in a comedy series for "The Office," as a member of the ensemble of the NBC series and as part of the cast of "Little Miss Sunshine."
Helen Mirren received nominations for playing different British monarchs in the film "The Queen" and the HBO miniseries, "Elizabeth I." (Mirren didn't want to talk about her accomplishments Thursday, but rather those of American women with Nancy Pelosi becoming the first female speaker of the House. "Congratulations to you," said Mirren. "Your achievement is much greater than mine.... What a incredible moment, really. It's very, very exciting.")
The other nominees joining Mirren in the category for female actor in a leading role are Penelope Cruz for "Volver," Judi Dench for "Notes on a Scandal," Meryl Streep for "The Devil Wears Prada" and Kate Winslet for "Little Children."
Joining Arkin, DiCaprio and Murphy in the male actor in a supporting role category are Djimon Hounsou for "Blood Diamond" and former child actor Jackie Earle Haley for "Little Children." Haley, who plays a creepy pervert in the movie, said he was overwhelmed: "It's so exciting and just kind of unreal.... I have been walking on cloud nine for a while."
In addition to Breslin, Hudson, Kikuchi and Barraza, Blanchett is also vying for female actor in a supporting role category for "Notes on a Scandal."
"Bobby" is also in contention for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture, along with "Babel," "Dreamgirls," "The Departed" and "Little Miss Sunshine."
On the television side, nominees for outstanding performance by a male actor in a drama series are James Gandolfini for "The Sopranos," Michael C. Hall for "Dexter," Hugh Laurie for "House," James Spader for "Boston Legal" and Kiefer Sutherland for "24."
Nominees for female actor in a drama series are Patricia Arquette for "Medium," Edie Falco for "The Sopranos," Mariska Hargitay for "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," Kyra Sedgwick for "The Closer" and Chandra Wilson for "Grey's Anatomy."
Vying with Carell for male actor in a comedy series are Alec Baldwin for "30 Rock," Jason Lee for "My Name in Earl," Jeremy Piven for "Entourage" and Tony Shaloub for "Monk."
Because there was a tie in the category for a female actor in a comedy series, there are six nominees: America Ferrera for "Ugly Betty," Felicity Huffman for "Desperate Housewives," Julia Louis-Dreyfus for "The New Adventures of Old Christine," Megan Mullally for "Will & Grace," Mary-Louise Parker for "Weeds" and Jaimie Pressley for "My Name is Earl."
Contending for male actor in a TV movie or miniseries are Thomas Haden Church and Robert Duvall, both for "Broken Trail," Jeremy Irons for "Elizabeth I," William H. Macy for "Nightmares & Dreamscapes" and Matthew Perry for "The Ron Clark Story."
Vying with Mirren for female actor in a TV movie or miniseries are Annette Bening and Cloris Leachman, both for "Mrs. Harris," Shirley Jones for "Hidden Places" and Greta Scacchi in "Broken Trail."
Nominated for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series are "24," "Boston Legal," "Deadwood," "Grey's Anatomy" and "The Sopranos."
Besides "The Office," nominees for comedy ensemble are "Desperate Housewives," "Entourage," "Ugly Betty" and "Weeds."
Also scheduled to be honored during the awards ceremony is Julie Andrews, previously announced as the guild's recipient of the 43rd annual lifetime achievement award.
Two randomly selected teams, one for TV and one for film, each composed of 2,100 guild members, chose this year's nominees. The entire active membership of the guild will vote all on the acting categories.
The awards, which are handed out in both movies and TV, will be presented Jan. 28 at the Shrine Exhibition Hall and will be telecast on TBS and TNT. The Screen Actors Guild has been seen as a fairly reliable indicator of which performers will go on to win Oscars. Of the last 24 winners in the leading male and female actor categories, 17 have gone on to receive Academy Awards.