SAG Awards: Weighing the Odds in the Best Film Ensemble Category

11:00 AM 11/29/2019

by Scott Feinberg

These 18 films' casts, comprised of veteran A-listers and fresh-faced breakouts alike, are vying for SAG-AFTRA's top prize.

Courtesy Photos

  • 'Avengers: Endgame'

    Courtesy of Marvel Studios

    Pros: Marvel’s final installment of its 22-film saga, which is now the highest-grossing film ever (unadjusted for inflation), is packed with a wide cross-section of stars. And a Marvel superhero film, Black Panther, won this award in 2019.

    Cons: Unlike Black Panther, it has little social relevance and no shot at individual acting noms.

  • 'Bombshell'

    Courtesy of Hilary Bronwyn Gayle SMPSP

    Pros: There’s quite a trio at the center of this Lionsgate pic — Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie — plus, in supporting parts, actors’ actors John Lithgow, Connie Britton, Richard Kind and Allison Janney.

    Cons: Female-centric nominees are rare (Hidden Figures and Lady Bird were recent exceptions), and tonally similar Vice wasn’t nominated.

  • 'Booksmart'

    Annapurna Pictures

    Pros: Directed by an actor, Olivia Wilde, Annapurna’s coming-of-age comedy stars two of the industry’s top up-and-coming actresses, Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, plus vets Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte and Jason Sudeikis.

    Cons: SAG-AFTRA has been cold toward this genre — no Clueless, Juno, Superbad or Eighth Grade, only Lady Bird.

  • 'Dolemite Is My Name'

    Courtesy of TIFF

    Pros: Eddie Murphy, Wesley Snipes, Keegan-Michael Key, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess and breakout Da’Vine Joy Randolph star in this funny film about actors struggling to make a movie, which — surprise — plays well with actors. And, based on prior noms for Beasts of No Nation and Mudbound, SAG-AFTRA has no issue with Netflix.

    Cons: The Disaster Artist came up short two years ago. 

  • 'Downton Abbey'

    Liam Daniel/Focus Features

    Pros: A huge assemblage of British beauties, character actors and Dame Maggie Smith performing in a Julian Fellowes-written period piece set in a mansion? That describes this film — and 2001 winner Gosford Park. Plus, the Downton TV series’ ensemble was nominated five times, winning three.

    Cons: Viewers used to the elegant pacing of the TV series may be jarred by the pacing of the movie.

  • 'The Farewell'

    Courtesy of A24

    Pros: Like this A24 breakout starring Awkwafina, Slumdog Millionaire had few "names" in its cast and was largely not in English, but still managed to win. And just last year, another primarily Asian cast, also with Awkwafina, was nominated: Crazy Rich Asians.

    Cons: Parasite seems a fairly safe bet for a nom. Will voters make room for multiple films with subtitles?

  • 'Hustlers'

    Alison Cohen Rosa/STXfilms

    Pros: Lorene Scafaria’s film — which centers on a group of strippers led by Jennifer Lopez, who essentially become actresses in order to con men out of their money — is a fun caper of the sort that SAG-AFTRA has often recognized in this category (think American Hustle, which won). Also, it has a female empowerment subtext, like past nominee Bridesmaids and past winner Hidden Figures.

    Cons: It would help if other awards groups recognized the film too.

  • 'The Irishman'

    Netflix

    Pros: It’s unimaginable that SAG-AFTRA wouldn’t nominate a cast that includes Hollywood royalty Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel; actors’ actors Anna Paquin, Bobby Cannavale, Ray Romano, Stephen Graham and Jesse Plemons; and outside-the-box choices like cop Bo Dietl and comedians Sebastian Maniscalco and Jim Norton.

    Cons: Only two Martin Scorsese films, The Aviator and The Departed, have been nominated. Both lost. 

  • 'Jojo Rabbit'

    Kimberley French

    Pros: A Holocaust dramedy directed by one of its stars was previously nominated (Life Is Beautiful) — and that one didn’t have the added benefit of being in English and starring an A-lister (Scarlett Johansson), Oscar winner (Sam Rockwell), well-known comedians (Rebel Wilson and Stephen Merchant), breakout talent (Thomasin McKenzie) and numerous adorable kids.

    Cons: When Life Is Beautiful came out, real Nazis weren’t mounting a comeback.

  • 'Just Mercy'

    JAKE GILES NETTER

    Pros: A studio film starring A-lister Michael B. Jordan, Oscar winners Jamie Foxx and Brie Larson and actors’ actors Rob Morgan, Tim Blake Nelson and Rafe Spall must be taken very seriously. And SAG-AFTRA has previously nominated a film centered on a black man on death row: The Green Mile.

    Cons: The Warner Bros. film is largely a courtroom drama — and no such film has ever been nominated.

  • 'Knives Out'

    Courtesy of TIFF

    Pros: Lionsgate’s Agatha Christie-like murder mystery has, as one would expect, a massive cast. It includes A-listers (Daniel Craig, Chris Evans), beloved vets (Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, M. Emmet Walsh), an Oscar winner (Christopher Plummer), Oscar nominees (Michael Shannon, Toni Collette) and up-and-comers (Lakeith Stanfield and Katherine Langford).

    Cons: Smart but silly doesn’t often play well with SAG-AFTRA.

  • 'Little Women'

    Wilson Webb

    Pros: Talk about a wonderful blend of hot young talent (Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Eliza Scanlen and Timothée Chalamet) and revered veterans (Laura Dern, Tracy Letts, Chris Cooper, Bob Odenkirk, Jayne Houdyshell and Meryl Streep) — and the Sony film is helmed by an actress-director (Greta Gerwig), no less.

    Cons: The story has been done numerous times before.

  • 'Marriage Story'

    Telluride Film Festival

    Pros: Noah Baumbach’s Netflix drama is assured three individual nominations — Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson (for her portrayal of an actress) and Laura Dern — with a fourth, for Alan Alda, quite possible. Rare are films that get that many individual noms without winning a cast one, too.

    Cons: Not many casts with as little diversity as this one have been nominated in recent years.

  • 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood'

    Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

    Pros: Stars don’t come bigger than Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Al Pacino — plus there’s Bruce Dern, Margaret Qualley, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Julia Butters and Lena Dunham. In the Sony film, DiCaprio plays an actor and Pitt plays a stunt man, two key constituencies of SAG-AFTRA. Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds won a decade ago.

    Cons: No other cast of Tarantino’s films has ever been nominated.

  • 'Parasite'

    Courtesy of TIFF

    Pros: Neon’s Korean film, with its large ensemble, has generated rave reviews and big box office. Voters have often nominated dramedies about wacky families, from My Big Fat Greek Wedding to August: Osage County to Captain  Fantastic.

    Cons: Few SAG-AFTRA voters will recognize any of the stars’ names. And only one non-English-language film has been nominated: Life Is Beautiful, 21 years ago.

  • 'Richard Jewell'

    Claire Folger/Warner Bros.

    Pros: Under the direction of revered actor-turned-filmmaker Clint Eastwood, this film's sprawling cast is led by breakout Paul Walter Hauser, who has a personal story people can root for, as well as actors' actors like Kathy Bates, Sam Rockwell and Jon Hamm.

    Cons: The film has taken a lot of flak for its unsubstantiated suggestion that a female reporter, played by Olivia Wilde, traded sex for information from a source.

  • 'Rocketman'

    David Appleby/Paramount Pictures

    Pros: SAG-AFTRA loves musical biopics, and this one from Paramount — a blockbuster boasting fan faves Taron Egerton and Richard Madden, plus the always reliable Jamie Bell and Bryce Dallas Howard — could follow its director’s last project, Bohemian Rhapsody, to a nom.

    Cons: Its May release date won’t help it, and most compare it unfavorably to Bohemian.

  • 'The Two Popes'

    Pros: Stage and screen vets Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins offer a master class in acting in this highly acclaimed fall fest favorite from Netflix.

    Cons: Films that are primarily two-handers have not fared well in this category. Even such widely popular ones as La La Land, The Shape of Water and Green Book were denied nominations.

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