In something of a surprise win over such favorites as "Babel," "The Departed," and "Dreamgirls," the outstanding ensemble in a motion picture award went to the cast of the dark comedy "Little Miss Sunshine." The movie received several Oscar nominations last week, including best picture, but had been considered a long-shot for most awards.
Many performers who won at the recent Golden Globes also won last night. Helen Mirren received two SAG awards, one for outstanding female actor in a leading role, as the stalwart British monarch Elizabeth II in "The Queen," and another as lead female actor in a TV movie or miniseries as the Virgin Queen in HBO's "Elizabeth I."
"Be still my beating heart. It's been an incredible night for me personally," Mirren said in accepting for "The Queen." "I learned to love a person without vanity," she said of the monarch she portrays.
Forest Whitaker, fresh off a Golden Globe win of his own, picked up the outstanding lead male actor in a motion picture award for his performace as the brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland." Both Mirren and Whitaker are also nominated for Oscars in their respective categories.
Four of the 10 individual awards handed out at the Shrine Exhibition Hall went to black performers.
Jennifer Hudson, who was voted off of "American Idol" three years ago, won outstanding female actor in a supporting role for her performance as an R&B singer who is forced into a back-up position in "Dreamgirls." Her castmate Eddie Murphy won outstanding male actor in a supporting role for his performance as a struggling R&B singer. He won a Golden Globe two weeks ago and is nominated for an Oscar for the performance.
The award for best female actor in a drama series went to another African American, Chandra Wilson, for her performance as the no-nonsense Dr. Miranda Bailey on ABC's popular medical show "Grey's Anatomy."
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"It's about those ten cast members stitting over there and that other one in rehab," Wilson said excitedly as she began her acceptance speech, referring to Isaiah Washington, who has been embroiled in a controversy over anti-gay slurs against castmate T.R. Knight and is seeking treatment. "Thank you Screen Actors Guild for taking me as I am," Wilson said later in the speech.
The series also won for ensemble cast in a drama series. As Ellen Pompeo accepted the award, she said, "It's worth mentioning the members of our cast who are not here," but then stumbled over exactly who was missing, including Kate Burton and Washington.
America Ferrera, whose parents are Honduran, won for outstanding female actor in a comedy series for her role as Betty Suarez on ABC's breakout hit "Ugly Betty." "I look out and see faces that inspired me my whole life," she said.
The British had an early run during Sunday night's ceremony. Besides Mirren's double win, her "Elizabeth" co-star Jeremy Irons was named outstanding male actor in a television movie or miniseries. He also won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his performance as the Earl of Leicester.
Their countryman Hugh Laurie won outstanding male actor in a drama series for his role as the acerbic Dr. Gregory House on the Fox medical show "House." Laurie also received the Golden Globe for the role.
Outstanding male actor in a comedy series went to Alec Baldwin for his perfomance as a bombastic network executive in NBC's struggling sitcom "30 Rock." Two weeks ago he, too, received the Golden Globe.
After an extended standing ovation filled with whistles and catcalls, the stars of the legendary CBS sitcom "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" - Mary Tyler Moore, Cloris Leachman, Betty White, Ed Asner, Gavin MacLeod, Valerie Harper and Georgia Engel - handed out the outstanding ensemble cast in a comedy series award to the cast of NBC's mockumentary "The Office."
"This is quite the honor, having these people present this to us," said series star Steve Carell, when Moore handed him the statue.
"24" star Kiefer Sutherland introduced clips of voice actors, ranging from Walt Disney performing Mickey Mouse to currently working performers.
In the first movie category of the evening, Anne Hathaway introduced a biographical montage of Julie Andrews, her co-star in the "Princess Diaries" movies, who was given the 43rd annual Life Achievement Award. Dick Van Dyke, who starred opposite Andrews in her Oscar-winning film debut in 1964's "Mary Poppins," presented the 71-year-old actress with the honor.
"My career has just been blessed by good fortune," Andrews said in accepting the award.
The awards, which are telecast simultaneously on TNT and TBS from the Shrine Exposition Hall, is the only televised awards show that exclusively honors performances in both movies and television. Two randomly chosen panels, each with 2,100 SAG members from across the country, selected the nominees, then, the entire active membership of the guild - approximately 98,000 members - can vote.
Three of last year's SAG award movie winners - best male actor Philip Seymour Hoffman for "Capote," best female actor Reese Witherspoon for "Walk the Line" and supporting female actor Rachel Weisz for "The Constant Gardner," - all went on to receive the Academy Award. Of the last 24 winners in the guild's leading actor categories, 17 have won Oscar gold.
No Oscar has ever gone to a performer who has not been nominated for a SAG award.