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Screen Actors Guild Awards – 2004 in our magazines

Billy Boyd, Dennis Haybert, Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, Charlize Theron, Bradley Whitford, Helen Mirren, John Spencer THE CONCEPT:
In Los Angeles performers gathered together to honor their own in both television and motion pictures. These are the winners of the Screen Actors Guild's coveted 'Actor' Award, and their comments both onstage and backstage.

THE EVENT: Screen Actors Guild Awards – 2004


Standing outside of the Shrine Auditorium in damp and chilly weather, it was hard not to blame the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for my uncomfortable state of being because they moved up the date of their Oscar ceremony, thereby making every other award show shift their dates to ensure they’d precede them. So there we were, smack in the middle of the rainy season in Los Angeles, at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, watching the stars make their way down the red carpet, braving the inclement weather to show off their strapless gowns, smiling and waving to their fans.
There is always a relaxed and congenial atmosphere at this award show, probably due to the fact that most of the performers know, or admire, each other. It’s one of the most prestigious awards an actor can receive, because it comes from their peers. Honoring both motion pictures and television, the SAG Awards for 2004 held few surprises. However, a long overdue ‘Actor’ did go to Kiefer Sutherland for his performance as Jack Bauer in TV’s cult hit, 24. Backstage he said of the series, “It’s the first time I have developed a character where I don’t know how it all ends up. Working with the same crew, day in, day out, has boosted not only my craft, but my confidence. As many of you know, I have not always been this comfortable with public speaking.”
For the third year in a row, Megan Mullally won for Best Actress in a Comedy Series for Will and Grace. This time she dragged her unsuspecting co-star Debra Messing on stage with her to receive the award, and backstage admitted, “I kind of forcibly, physically manhandled her.”
Best Actress in a Drama Series went to Frances Conroy for HBO’s Six Feet Under, and the ladies of Sex and the City walked away with Best Ensemble Cast for a Comedy, on the very night that it finished its run on U.S. television. In the pressroom, Cynthia Nixon admitted, “We don’t know how it ends, so of course part of me wants to be in front of a TV tonight, but how could I miss this?”
Tony Shalhoub was honored for his amusing performance in TV’s Monk, but confessed in the pressroom that his 10-year-old daughter didn’t want him to win because she was embarrassed that the ‘Actor’ statuette was in the form of a nude male. “I think she was uncomfortable to have this in the house,” laughed Shalhoub. “Maybe we can make a little doily (to cover him up)!”
Six Feet Under won for Best Ensemble for a Drama, giving Frances Conroy her second award of the evening. Al Pacino and Meryl Streep were shoo-ins for Best Actor and Actress in a Telefilm or Miniseries for their stunning portrayals in Angels in America. A very chatty Pacino told the journalists that the best advice he’d ever received came from co-star and legendary acting coach Lee Strasberg, when they were shooting And Justice for All… “I was having a difficult time with a scene, and I kept thinking if it was this or that, and Lee said, ‘Darling, you have to learn your lines.’ And he was right, it does make a difference.’”
Transcending both TV and movies, the Life Achievement Award went to 92-year-old Karl Malden, and was presented to him by his old Streets of San Francisco co-star, Michael Douglas. Backstage Malden said of Douglas, “We had four years together, and it was one of the great pleasures of my career.”
The motion picture awards went true to form except for one stunning upset when Johnny Depp beat out Sean Penn, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley and Peter Dinklage for Best Actor with his performance as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of the Black Pearl. Backstage journalists gasped when his name was announced, and a reporter from the BBC who was sitting directly behind me, kept yelling, “Johnny Depp, I don’t believe it!” and then proceeded to make phone calls so others would know the news. Even Al Pacino, who was in the pressroom at the time, seemed surprised by the win. But nobody was surprised when Renee Zellweger’s name was called for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Ruby in Anthony Minghella’s Cold Mountain. Last year she won Best Actress and was part of the Best Ensemble Award for Chicago, so as she stepped onto the stage in the pressroom she admitted that she was having “déjà vu. I even saw Catherine (Zeta-Jones) backstage, which made it even stranger, but, alas, this time I’m going it alone.”
Tim Robbins secured the Best Supporting Actor Award for his unforgettable performance in Mystic River. Asked where his inspiration for the role of the troubled Dave Boyle came from, he commented, “I grew up in New York with a close-knit group of guys who were a lot like the characters. It was not a big stretch for me to get an idea of who all these guys were and what they were all about.”
The beautiful Charlize Theron continued her winning streak being honored with the Actor for her harrowing performance as prostitute and murderer Aileen Wuornos in Monster. “I’m saddened by the fact there aren’t a lot of conflicted female characters out there,” she said. “I always feel that Jack Nicholson and Dustin Hoffman get to do that, but there are so few times women get to play conflicted characters. In reality we’re all flawed, and it’s in our flaws that we find empathy for Humanity.”
The final award of the evening went to the cast of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Many industry pundits felt strongly that Sean Astin deserved an Oscar nomination for his performance as Sam in the movie, and the press backstage were obviously happy that he and the rest of the cast had been recognized for their four years of work bringing Tolkien’s classic to the screen. “We’ve all had a long time to anticipate the coming of the end,” Astin reflected. “We’ve all experienced moments of sadness and pain, relief and glee that it’s over. Tonight for me, honestly, I knew it would be my time to say goodbye and it feels great.”

Written by Judy Sloane
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Feature © 2004 Visual Imagination.
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Film Review, #641, March 2004 cover

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