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On the film side, American Hustle won the top prize of best cast, with Bradley Cooper accepting the award. The actor said that often when you get cast in a project what you imagine happening is better than the actual experience, but that’s not the case with director David O. Russell.
“He is an actor’s director. That notion is tossed around. He is the embodiment of it,” Cooper said. “Much is asked of us and, if we deliver, much is returned. Thank you, David! This award is for you.”
Other film acting prizes went to Cate Blanchett (best actress for her role in Blue Jasmine), Matthew McConaughey (best actor for Dallas Buyers Club), Jared Leto (best supporting actor for Dallas Buyers Club) and Lupita Nyong’o (best supporting actress for 12 Years a Slave).
Although Slave went into the show with a leading four nominations, Nyong’o got the film’s only win. Blanchett, McConaughey and Leto have all already won Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice awards for their performances. Nyong’o, who lost to Hustle‘s Jennifer Lawrence at the Golden Globes, also won a Critics’ Choice Award for her performance.
McConaughey thanked the other nominees in all categories, marveling at the “fierce performances this year” that he said “shines a great light on this bull ride that we take called acting.” He also talked about some of the great characters he’s had the privilege to play recently, saying, “I could humble myself to their humanities and then get freakishly drunk on their obsessions.” He then gave the following rambling but eloquent series of remarks about the magic that happens when actors are able to become a character from the inside out and see things through their perspective:
“There’s a magic place that we as actors can get — or we at least strive to get to — and you know we always don’t get there, but boy when we touch it, it’s magic. When you’re seeing the character from the inside out. When you’re walking out every day and everything you see, smell and touch and observe is coming through that character into you and it’s making sense, and you’re the subject, you’re the eye, you’re first-person seeing it through that character’s eyes. That doesn’t always happen but boy when it does, and it feels like they can put a blindfold on you and put you in a spaceship and take you to Neptune and you can hop off on the planet, and they better have the sprockets rolling when you get off that spaceship because you are going to behave as your man. That is a glorious feeling.”
Blanchett noted she’s been away from the film world doing theater and thanked SAG-AFTRA for welcoming her back. But while she expressed her gratitude to the SAG-AFTRA members who voted for her, to those who didn’t, she said, “better luck next year.” She also thanked Woody Allen and the film’s cast including Sally Hawkins, with Blanchett saying she was lonely onstage without Hawkins and that the award half belongs to her castmate, “the penis part.”
McConaughey’s Dallas Buyers Club co-star Leto and Nyong’o took the first awards of the night.
Leto thanked the “wonderful tribe of dreamers, SAG-AFTRA” and dedicated his award to all those who have lost their lives as a result of AIDS and are living with HIV and AIDS. The actor was criticized earlier this week for failing to mention those with HIV in his Golden Globes acceptance speech but talked extensively about those battling the disease in his Critics’ Choice and SAG speeches. He also dedicated his award to the “Rayons of the world,” whom he said, “choose to live life…as they dream it.” Leto also gave a shout-out to fellow best supporting actor nominee, the late James Gandolfini, and he finished his speech with McConaughey’s “all right, all right, all right.”
Nyong’o, who makes her big-screen debut in Slave, acknowleged the movie’s real-life subject Solomon Northup “for a life well-lived and a story hard to tell” and thanked director Steve McQueen three times for “shining a flashlight under the floorboards of America” with his brutal drama about slavery. The actress, who was cast in Slave just months before graduating from the Yale School of Drama, also thanked her alma mater for her training.
On the TV side, Breaking Bad, which went into the show with a leading four nominations, and Modern Family each took home two awards. The shows won best ensemble in drama and comedy series and stars Bryan Cranston and Ty Burrell won best actor in a drama and comedy series. Best actress in a drama series went to an absent Maggie Smith for Downton Abbey and best actress in a comedy series went to Veep‘s Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
In the TV movie/miniseries category, Helen Mirren won best actress for her role in the HBO movie Phil Spector and Michael Douglas added to his slew of trophies for Behind the Candelabra with another win.
Cranston delivered two memorable speeches. When he won for best actor in a drama series, he brought co-star Anna Gunn‘s custom-made show-inspired clutch onstage and pretended to touch up his makeup with it. Alluding to Life Achievement Award recipient Rita Moreno, who ended her speech with a song, Cranston then began singing, “I won a SAG Award.” The actor also talked about how lucky he felt to be able to make a living as an actor, noting the many “crappy jobs” he had, including loading trucks with people yelling at him. “The only thing that got me through was imagining that I could actually make a living as an actor,” he said. “We are the luckiest people in the world who can say, ‘I am an actor.'” Cranston also addressed show creator Vince Gilligan, telling him, “I owe you everything.”
Accepting the show’s best drama ensemble win, Cranston thanked all of the actors that appeared on the show, noting of some of the final season’s memorable guest stars and the show’s finale, “We have the nicest batch of white supremacist Nazis I have ever worked worth. I swear to you I would kill you all again.” He also thanked Gilligan again, saying the cast was “at the mercy of your words” and “humbled by your talent.” “What a way to go out in style,” he added in closing.
Modern Family‘s ensemble win was the show’s fourth consecutive honor in that category, which star Sofia Vergara called “mind-blowing” in her speech, partly “because I can barely speak English.” She then thanked the writers, creators, crew, ABC/Fox, the show’s casting director and “my boobs,” among others. She ended her speech by saying, “We’re going to party now.”
In his acceptance speech, Burrell went over his five steps for success, including “be born into a family that never had an actor in it…use that false sense of confidence to woo and attract a spouse who’s better than you…have no skill other than being a needy extrovert…use that lack of skill to stumble into a job written by [Modern Family‘s] Chris Lloyd” and the amazing writing staff and make sure that job includes the cast of Modern Family. His fifth step was to “have a knack for memorizing,” which he fumbled.
Louis-Dreyfus first thanked the HFPA for the Golden Globe before realizing that was the wrong speech. She then said it was an honor to be nominated for an Oscar before asking her Veep co-star to find her SAG speech, which he revealed he didn’t have because he didn’t think she’d win. Instead, Louis-Dreyfus rattled off a bunch of “thank you”s including to “some of the cast, I suppose.”
Mirren, who’s won four prior SAG Awards, took some time to admire the statue, saying “I love this little guy. He’s kind of sexy, isn’t he? A little naked but not quite.” She then thanked her on-screen partner Al Pacino, saying that she had the “incredible advantage” of working with the beloved and well-respected legend and that he taught her that “we can always learn all the time.” She also thanked HBO and writer-director David Mamet.
Douglas thanked his fellow actors for helping him get out of his father’s shadow, while noting that his 97-year-old dad was “particularly proud” of him. He also delivered another memorable dirty double entendre about his on-screen partner Matt Damon, after previously calling his performance a “two hander.” This time, Douglas noted that he and Damon, who was nominated in the same category Saturday night, “have gone head-to-head” before seriously thanking Damon for waiting for a year on the project when it was delayed while Douglas was battling cancer.
Rita Moreno accepted the Life Achievement Award from Morgan Freeman, who called the West Side Story star his “dear old friend,” as well as a “world-class actress, singer, dancer and fighter who battled to break through the racial and sexual barriers that plagued Hollywood’s Golden Age.” Moreno did a victory lap onstage after receiving a standing ovation before saying that she was “f—ing thrilled,” but the sound was cut on the live broadcast when she uttered the curse word. Later she apologized for “that word” before saying, “Actually, I’m not.” Alluding to her surprised acceptance speech for her Oscar, she said she still honestly can’t believe she’s received SAG’s honor. Moreno, who briefly flirted with Jeremy Renner and Brad Pitt, also said she hoped she was receiving the Life Achievement Award “early in the third act of my life.” She finished by singing several lines from “This is All I Ask.”
Prior to the show, Lone Survivor and Game of Thrones were announced as the winners of best movie and TV series stunt ensembles.
The SAG Awards aired live from the Shrine Exposition Center in Los Angeles on TNT and TBS at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.
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Tracee Ellis Ross