"American Hustle" won the top honor at the 20th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards Saturday night at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The film walked away with outstanding performance by a movie cast, beating out "12 Years a Slave," ''Dallas Buyers Club," ''August: Osage County" and "Lee Daniels' The Butler."
Bradley Cooper spoke on behalf of the ensemble, which also includes Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and Christian Bale. Cooper hailed director David O. Russell as "the epitome of the actor's director."
Major acting honors went to Cate Blanchett for her role in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine" and Matthew McConaughey for "Dallas Buyers Club." "It really shines a great light on this bull ride we call acting," said McConaughey. "I've been able to recently find some characters that I can humble myself to their humanities and get feverishly drunk on their obsessions."
McConaughey's co-star Jared Leto received the award for supporting actor for his performance in the Texas HIV drama "Dallas Buyers Club," in which he plays the gaunt transsexual Rayon. He dedicated the award to those who have died of AIDS and to "the Rayons of the world." He also thanked his mom, calling her the "hottest date in town."
The "Breaking Bad" victory lap continued following the Golden Globes. The series won awards for outstanding dramatic cast and for lead actor Bryan Cranston.
"What a way to go out in style!" Cranston said, accepting the ensemble's award at the Los Angeles ceremony Saturday.
For his indelible performance as teacher-turned-meth dealer, Cranston added his second lead actor SAG Award, to go with his recent Golden Globe win and his numerous Emmys. "Breaking Bad" memorably wrapped late year. When accepting the honor for actor in a drama series for "Breaking Bad," Bryan Cranston talked about how lucky is to be able to make a living as an actor.
"We have the nicest bunch of white supremacists I have ever worked with," said Cranston, looking over his castmates. "I swear to you I would kill you all over again."
The first award of the night -- best supporting actress -- went to Lupita Nyong'o of "12 Years a Slave."
She thanked director Steve McQueen "for taking a flashlight and shining it underneath the floorboards of this nation and reminding us what it is we stand on." The Kenyan actress, who has been hailed for her red-carpet grace this awards season, recalled her celebratory phone call to her father when she got the part -- her first feature film.
"'Daddy, do you know who Brad Pitt is? I'm going to be in a movie with him!'" recalled Nyong'o. "And he said, 'I don't know him personally, but I'm glad you got a job.'"
One of the early TV acting honors went to Julia-Louis Dreyfus for HBO's "Veep." Upon accepting the honor the former "Seinfeld" actress had a little fun, joking that she had the wrong speech cheat sheets. "It's hard you know because it's awards season and things get confusing, much like elections," she joked.
"Modern Family" won big early on, too, with honors for both the cast and actor Ty Burrell. Two big-screen veterans won awards for TV films: Michael Douglas for HBO's Liberace drama "Behind the Candelabra," and Helen Mirren for the biopic "Phil Spector," also on HBO. "I love this little guy, he's so sexy...I don't feel saggy, I feel quite perky winning this," Mirren joked about the trophy.
"I am not here without Matt Damon," said Douglas, after making a gay sex pun that made his co-star wince. He also spoke about his dad, actor Kirk Douglas, saying, "I got a 97-year-old member of SAG at home," noting that his father will be proud.
SAG's lifetime achievement award was given to Rita Moreno, the 82-year-old "West Side Story" actress whose career has spanned Broadway, television and music.
Introduced by Morgan Freeman, the much-honored Latina legend danced to the podium before a standing ovation and let out a gleeful expletive.
"I hope the man with the button was there," she said. (He was.) "I'm breathless. I'm so bloody happy. I'm sorry about that word, actually I am not," she added.
Moreno serenaded the SAG audience with a few bars from "This Is All I Ask": "And let the music play/As long as there's a song to sing/And I will stay younger than spring."
Emma Thompson, a surprise snub in Thursday's Oscar nominations for the "Mary Poppins" making-of tale "Saving Mr. Banks," was just as much the witty, winning award-show attendee she's been all season. As a presenter, the lead actress nominee noted the show's cheesy elevator music soundtrack: "Is this music available on CD?"
The evening got under way with several stars, including Rob Lowe and Kaley Cuoco, telling stories about being actors.
The guild's choices will be heavily scrutinized for their predictive powers about the Academy Awards.
Actors make up the largest branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, so SAG members have perhaps more sway in determining Academy Awards winners than any other group.
Obviously, SAG and the Academy don't always agree: Neither "August: Osage County" nor "The Butler" were nominated for best picture, and "The Butler" was snubbed entirely. The effects-heavy, sparsely-peopled "Gravity" was predictably overlooked by SAG (except for a best actress nomination to Sandra Bullock), while it garnered 10 Oscar nods.
But the SAG Awards will give a window into support for Oscar favorites "12 Years a Slave" and "American Hustle."
The SAG outstanding cast awards have lined up with Oscar best-picture winners, including "Argo," ''The King's Speech," ''Slumdog Millionaire" and "No Country for Old Men." But SAG diverged in the past with picks like "The Help," ''Inglourious Basterds" and "Little Miss Sunshine." The actors did foretell one of the biggest Oscar upsets in 2005, choosing "Crash" over "Brokeback Mountain."
Go here for a complete list of winners from Saturday's awards ceremony.
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