(Adds quote from McConaughey in paragraph 13)
By Mary Milliken and Eric Kelsey
LOS ANGELES Jan 18 The cast of the 1970s crime
caper "American Hustle" grooved its way to the top prize from
the Screen Actors Guild on Saturday in a key test of the film's
Oscar mettle six weeks ahead of a likely competitive race for
"American Hustle" from director David O. Russell has been
hailed for its performances, although it won no individual
acting awards on Saturday and only Jennifer Lawrence was
nominated for her supporting role. It prevailed over another
presumed Oscar front-runner, "12 Years a Slave," which only took
home a best supporting actress trophy.
Australian Cate Blanchett won best actress for her role as a
socialite who suffers a breakdown in Woody Allen's "Blue
Jasmine," while best actor went to Matthew McConaughey for his
turn as an unlikely AIDS activist in "Dallas Buyers Club."
Both actors are the clear front-runners for best acting
Oscars after winning Golden Globes last Sunday. Screen Actors
Guild (SAG) awards are honors that actors relish, however,
because they come from their peers.
In what is widely considered one of the best years for
quality film in recent memory, SAG and other guild awards to be
handed out in the next two weeks could collectively steer the
race in favor of one film for the industry's highest honor, the
best picture Oscar, on March 2.
The SAG ceremony is one of the most closely watched of the
Hollywood awards season because it makes up the largest voting
group or around 20 percent of the 6,000 members of the Academy
of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that vote for the Oscars.
Bradley Cooper accepted the best ensemble cast award on
behalf of a lineup that included Christian Bale and Amy Adams in
addition to Lawrence. All four of them are nominated in the four
acting Oscar categories, a repeat feat by Russell after his hit
last year "Silver Linings Playbook."
"He is an actor's director," said Cooper. "That notion is
tossed around; he is the embodiment of it. He's the reason why
all of us wanted to become actors when we were children."
UPSET IN SUPPORTING ACTRESS
"American Hustle" is a romp through loose 1970s New York and
tells the story of petty con-artists who are caught and forced
to collaborate with the FBI in a sting operation, inspired by
the real-life Abscam case.
It won 10 Oscar nominations on Thursday, co-leading the
field with space thriller "Gravity," basically a one-woman show
starring Sandra Bullock as a stranded astronaut that is most
recognized for its technical innovation.
But it is the small film that cost $4 million, "Dallas
Buyers Club," that has done best in individual acting awards
McConaughey's co-star Jared Leto won best supporting actor
for his turn as his transsexual side-kick Rayon. Both he and
McConaughey, who plays a homophobic Texan who gets AIDS and
fights for treatment, impressed the film world with their
extreme weight loss for their roles
"There's a magic place that we, as actors, can get or at
least strive to get to. And you know we always don't get there.
But, boy, when we touch it, it's magic," McConaughey said in
recognizing the much ballyhooed ascent in his career.
In the supporting actress category, Kenyan actress Lupita
Nyong'o of "12 Years a Slave" won in an upset over Lawrence who
took the Golden Globe for her "American Hustle" role as a loopy
Nyong'o is also nominated for an Oscar for her role as the
hardworking slave Patsey in the brutal depiction of pre-Civil
War American slavery "12 Years a Slave," which has a total of
nine nominations, including best picture.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you Steve McQueen," Hollywood
newcomer Nyong'o said to the British director who chose her
after auditioning 1,000 actresses.
"Thank you for taking a flashlight and shining it under the
floorboards of this nation and reminding us what it is we stand
MIXED RECORD ON OSCARS
In the last decade, the SAG awards have a mixed record on
predicting the Oscar best picture with their choice of best
ensemble cast for film. They have correctly predicted the Oscar
in six of the last 10 years.
For best actor, they have tipped the Oscar winner in all of
the last nine years, and for best actress, they have predicted
six out of the last nine.
The Producers Guild of America, which will hand out their
awards on Sunday night, has correctly selected the best picture
Oscar winner with their outstanding film producer prize for the
last six years.
But it is an abnormally long lead-in to the Oscars, and
Academy members have almost a month before voting starts on Feb.
14 and ends on Feb. 25. The long wait adds to the uncertainty of
In a bit of unscripted drama, actress Rita Moreno, 82,
received the lifetime achievement award from the Screen Actors
Guild on Saturday and dropped an expletive as soon as she hit
the stage to accept the honor from actor Morgan Freeman.
Soon after, she said, "I am sorry about that word. Actually
I am not."
The SAG honors are chosen by some 165,000 actors working in
the United States and also reward acting in television drama and
comedy as well as stunt work.
ABC's long-running success "Modern Family" won best ensemble
in a comedy series, while the AMC Emmy winner "Breaking Bad"
took the same prize for drama, the first SAG cast win for the
show that ended last year.
(Editing by Lisa Shumaker)