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SAG Awards Winners: 'King's Speech' Tops

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The King's Speech Cast & Crew
AFP/Getty Images
The cast of "The King's Speech"

Colin Firth and Natalie Portman take top acting awards; "Boardwalk Empire" and "Modern Family" casts sweep the TV categories.

Divvying up its top film prizes between England and America Sunday night, the 17th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards hailed The King's Speech by gifting it with its best film ensemble award and recognizing its star Colin Firth as best male actor in a film. But the actors' guild also reserved two prizes for The Fighter, set in Lowell, Mass., by handing supporting film acting honors to Christian Bale and Melissa Leo.

Natalie Portman, named best actress for Black Swan, rounded out the individual movie acting awards, which all repeated the trophies that were presented two weeks ago at the Golden Globes.

On the TV side, SAG spotlighted HBO's Boardwalk Empire and ABC's Modern Family with its ensemble awards for drama and comedy series, respectively.

The Weinstein Co.'s Speech, which has also collected awards from the Producers Guild of America and the Directors Guild of America, has now consolidated its status as an Oscar front-runner, having garnered 12 nominations.

Among Oscar handicappers, SAG's film ensemble award serves as the equivalent of the best picture Oscar. However, it is an imprecise harbinger. Awards pundits point to Crash's 2006 win at the SAG Awards as the first indicator that it would go on to win that year's Oscar over front-runner Brokeback Mountain. But, in fact, over the past 10 years, the SAG film ensemble winner has matched up with the best picture Oscar winner only 50 percent of the time.

Geoffrey Rush, who plays Speech's therapist Lionel Logue, accepted for the ensemble. "It shouldn't be called the SAG Award, it should be called the uplifting award," he attempted a pun as he accompanied his fellow cast members to the stage of the Shrine Exposition Center, where the awards broadcast was held.

Firth, who was nominated last year for A Single Man, claimed the best actor award for playing the tongue-tied George VI. "I'd like to thank security for letting me into the building," he joked self-deprecatingly. Explaining that growing up in England, a SAG card wasn't "something you expect to see in your wallet," he insisted he used to flash it around in hopes of attracting attention.

Winning the best film actress award, Portman danced to victory by portraying a ballerina descending into madness in Fox Searchlight's Black Swan. "I've been working since I was 11 years old, and SAG has taken care of me," said the actress of her first SAG Award. "I'm so grateful to have this union protecting me every day."

PHOTOS: What the stars wore to the SAG Awards

Leo took home the first film award of the evening, earning her first SAG Award ever for her performance as a monstrously controlling mom in Paramount/Relativity’s The Fighter. Fighting back tears, she said, “I’m much better when I have my words written for me.” Directing the room’s attention to six of the young women who played her foul-mouthed daughters in the film, she cradled the award, addressing her remarks to them, saying, “Thank you for helping me get a man I can bring home with me tonight.”

Her co-star Bale picked up the trophy for supporting film actor later in the evening for tackling the part of Leo’s onscreen son Dicky Eklund, a washed-up boxer-turned-addict in Fighter. Bale was just about to begin his acceptance when Eklund himself bounded onto the stage. “This is the original quacker right here,” Bale greeted him, as Eklund said, “Good job, Christian.” Responded the British actor, “Thank you for living the life, and thank you for letting me play you.”

Al Pacino, who wasn't present, was named best actor in a TV movie for his performance as assisted-suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian in HBO's You Don't Know Jack, for which he also won an Emmy and a Golden Globe.

And Claire Danes, who also collected an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her turn in the title role in HBO's Temple Grandin, picked up more bling for herself as she was chosen outstanding female actor in a TV movie. She thanked her fellow cast members for helping her play "an autistic woman who has trouble communicating" and singled out the movie's real-life subject, saying, "Thank you, Temple, who is no act."