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Screen Actors Guild Award Nominees Announced

Friday, January 5------With the 2007 only four days old, the awards season frenzy that had a brief respite over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays has resumed in full force. Yesterday morning, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the organization that represents acting talent on both the large and small screen, announced its nominations for the prestigious SAG Awards.

Announcements were made by Elijah Wood (LORD OF THE RINGS) and Sandra Oh (SIDEWAYS, GREY’S ANATOMY). The honors, which are prized by actors as a recognition by their peers, have become an important barometer for Oscar nominations. The SAG Awards Gala, which used to be a private affair, has also become a television event staple, with the ceremonies to be broadcast on January 28th on cable television networks TNT and TBS.

This year’s nominee announcements held a few surprises. Dame Helen Mirren was nominated for two queenly roles as two separate Queen Elizabeths (one in the 16th century, the other in the 21st….talk about range). Mirren received nods for her much lauded work as the stoic Queen Elizabeth II in the Stephen Frears hit THE QUEEN. She is also nominated for her performance as first Queen Elizabeth in the HBO television mini-series ELIZABETH I, for which she has already won an Emmy Award.

Leonard DiCaprio is also on a roll….snagging two nominations for two very different performances. For his role as the heartless mercentary in the thriller BLOOD DIAMOND, Leo received a Best Actor nod. His second nomination, for Best Supporting Actor in the Martin Scorsese-directed gangster epic THE DEPARTED is considered rather controversial. DiCaprio is the first name above the title, and clearly has the lead role in the film (alongside fellow lead Matt Damon). While Warner Brothers clearly made a strategic decision to put Leo up in the supporting category to increase his chances for a (possible double) win, it is rather unfair and inaccurate to describe his performance in the film as a supporting player. Also, his nod eclipsed the possible chances for fellow actors Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg, who are truly supporting players in the film, and both worthy of attention for the strong work with much more limited screen time.

The zeitgeist film BABEL received the most nominations of any films. The four nods include: Brad Pitt as Best Supporting Actor; Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi for Best Supporting Actress; and the entire cast for Best Acting Ensemble.

The Holiday box office champ DREAMGIRLS received three nominations: Best Supporting Actor for Eddie Murphy as a James Brown-like soul singer; Best Supporting Actress for Jennifer Hudson as the vocal powerhouse who is booted out of a Supremes-like singing trio; and Best Acting Ensemble for the entire cast. The film’s leads, Jamie Foxx and Beyonce Knowles, were shut out of the lead acting nominations.

The indie hit LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE also hit a nominee trifecta, with nods to veteran actor Alan Arkin as Best Supporting Actor for his performance as a foul-mouthed grandfather; 7-year-old Abigail Breslin as Best Supporting Actress for her performance as an aspiring beauty queen; and the entire cast as Best Acting Ensemble. Missing in action were the film’s main leads: Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette and Steve Carell.

Joining DiCaprio for Best Actor honors are likely Oscar nominees Forest Whitaker (as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND); veteran actor Peter O'Toole (as a lecherous actor in VENUS) and Will Smith (for his lauded performance as a homeless father in THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS). A surprise and very welcome addition to this group is Ryan Gosling, whose performance as a teacher with a drug problem in the indie film HALF NELSON has been hailed by critics as one of the best of the year.

Aside from Helen Mirren, other lead actresses (and very probable Oscar nominees) include: Penelope Cruz, as the moral center of a bizarre family in Pedro Almodovar’s femme fest VOLVER; Dame Judi Dench, as a scheming teacher in NOTES ON A SCANDAL; Meryl Streep as the boss from hell in THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA; and Kate Winslet as a woman having an affair with her neighbor in LITTLE CHILDREN.

Rounding out the Best Supporting Actor nominee list are Jackie Earle Haley, for his celebrated comeback role as a pedophile in the grips of his obsession, in the humanistic drama LITTLE CHILDREN; and Djimon Hounsou as a pawn in the lust for diamonds in the thriller BLOOD DIAMOND.

In addition to the four actresses mentioned above as Best Supporting Actress, number five is Cate Blanchett, a recent Oscar winner for her reincarnation of screen legend Katharine Hepburn in the Martin Scorsese epic THE AVIATOR, won a nod for her role as a scandalized teacher in the drama NOTES ON A SCANDAL.

For a complete list of nominations in both the film and television categories, log on to the website: Screen Actors Guild Awards

Sandy Mandelberger
Awards Watch Editor

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