SAG Awards: Weighing the Odds in the Best Ensemble Race

10:00 AM 11/16/2018

by Scott Feinberg

For its best picture equivalent, SAG-AFTRA's nominating committee looks for great performances by robust casts, sure, but they also prize diversity and are partial to some star favorites.

From left: 'Roma,' 'The Favorite' and 'A Star Is Born'
From left: 'Roma,' 'The Favorite' and 'A Star Is Born'
Courtesy of TIFF; Twentieth Century Fox; Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

  • Black Panther

    Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

    PROS This blockbuster boasts a star-studded cast of color. Many movies with diverse casts have been nominated in the past three years (Straight Outta Compton; Hidden Figures, which won; Moonlight; Get Out; and Mudbound).

    CONS It was released way back in February (although similar timing in 2017 didn't hurt Get Out).

  • BlacKkKlansman

    Courtesy of Focus Features

    PROS Another movie that explores racial tensions, this Spike Lee joint has a cast that's big and diverse — black (John David Washington) and white (Adam Driver, Topher Grace), young (Laura Harrier) and old (Harry Belafonte).

    CONS None of Lee's previous casts were nominated.

  • Crazy Rich Asians

    Courtesy of Warner Bros.

    PROS This landmark box office hit boasts a cast of already well-known Asian actors (Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh), TV favorites (Nico Santos, Jimmy O. Yang), breakout stars (Awkwafina, Henry Golding) and revered veterans (Lisa Lu).

    CONS Romantic comedies are rarely nominated here — although My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a fairly apt comp, was.

  • The Favourite

    Yorgos Lanthimos/Twentieth Century Fox

    PROS This cast includes SAG Awards faves Emma Stone (winner for La La Land, part of the winning The Help and Birdman casts) and Rachel Weisz (winner for The Constant Gardener), plus British actor's actor Olivia Colman.

    CONS Rare are femalecentric nominees (recent exceptions being Hidden Figures and Lady Bird).

  • First Man

    Courtesy of Universal Studios

    PROS The cast is led by two SAG Awards darlings, three-time best actor nominee Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy, two-time defending winner of best actress in a TV drama for The Crown.

    CONS No Damien Chazelle film has ever been nominated, and space-related movies have a hit-and-miss record (Apollo 13 and Hidden Figures won; Gravity wasn't even nominated).

  • Green Book

    Patti Perret/Universal Studios

    PROS Set in the Deep South in the 1960s, it stars SAG Awards faves Viggo Mortensen (who led the casts of three Lord of the Rings films and Captain Fantastic to noms) and Mahershala Ali (part of the nominated Moonlight and winning Hidden Figures casts).

    CONS The rest of the cast is little known (save for Linda Cardellini).

  • If Beale Street Could Talk

    Tatum Mangus / Annapurna Pictures

    PROS Barry Jenkins' last film, Moonlight, was nominated, as many recent period pieces have been (Hidden Figures).

    CONS Apart from Regina King and Brian Tyree Henry, none of the principal members of this cast — led by breakouts Stephan James and KiKi Layne — has much name recognition.

  • A Quiet Place

    Jonny Cournoyer/Paramount Pictures

    PROS Voters often nominate pics directed by one of their stars, like this John Krasinski hit — see Sling Blade; Life Is BeautifulMillion Dollar Baby; Good Night, and Good Luck and Argo (which won). And this one also stars Emily Blunt, who's liked enough to have landed a nom for The Girl on the Train.

    CONS Rare are noms for springtime horror pics (although Get Out got one).

  • Roma

    Courtesy of Netflix

    PROS In this category, SAG-AFTRA nominating committees have never been deterred by black-and-white (see Good Night, and Good Luck and The Artist) or Netflix (see Beasts of No Nation and Mudbound).

    CONS The absence of marquee names won't help. And the only fully non-English-language film to be nominated was Life Is Beautiful — 20 years ago.

  • A Star Is Born

    Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

    PROS Music-centric films often get nominated (Little Voice, Almost FamousMoulin RougeRay, Hustle & FlowDreamgirlsHairsprayNineLes Miserables), and sometimes win (Chicago).

    CONS Like the unexpectedly snubbed La La Land, this one is essentially a two-hander — and not especially diverse.

  • Vice

    PROS Adam McKay's last film, The Big Short, also starred Christian Bale and Steve Carell, and was nominated. His follow-up adds four-time individual and three-time cast nominee Amy Adams, plus a host of great character actors (Sam Rockwell, Jesse Plemons, Eddie Marsan, Bill Camp, Alison Pill).

    CONS Nobody has seen the film yet, and debuting late in the game can be a liability — less time for a voter to digest and discuss a film, and for campaigners to emphasize its attributes.

  • What They Had

    Bleeker Street

    PROS Actors love films directed by actors, even if, like Elizabeth Chomko, the helmer doesn't appear onscreen (see Captain FantasticGet Out and Lady Bird). And Bleecker Street landed two surprise noms in the last three years (Trumbo and Captain Fantastic).

    CONS This film has a much lower profile than other contenders.

  • Widows

    Merrick Morton/courtesy of 20th Century Fox

    PROS Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave was nominated. His heist film also has a large, diverse ensemble — black (Viola Davis, Cynthia Erivo), white (Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Liam Neeson) and Hispanic (Michelle Rodriguez).

    CONS Heist thrillers feel out of place in awards season (although American Gangster was nominated and American Hustle won).

    This story first appeared in a November stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.