SAG Awards: 'Birdman' Spreads Its Wings as Eddie Redmayne, Julianne Moore Continue on Their Winning Path

Eddie Redmayne SAG Award - H 2015
AP Images

Eddie Redmayne SAG Award - H 2015

The 'Downton Abbey' and 'Orange Is the New Black' ensembles took the top TV categories.

Birdman and its ensemble cast took top acting honors at the 21st annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, held Sunday night at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, while the winning ensembles in TV were Downton Abbey, a repeat winner for drama, and Orange Is the New Black, for comedy.

Birdman's win, coming on the heels of its victory Saturday night at the Producers Guild of America Awards, consolidates the Alejandro G. Inarritu film about one actor's midlife crisis, told with lots of cinematic razzmatazz, as the current frontrunner for the best picture Oscar.

And as they accepted the SAG Award, the movie's cast paid tribute to their fellow actors — which should play well with the Academy's large actors branch. “It is the ultimate team sport, what we do for a living,” said Michael Keaton, the movie's star, with castmate Edward Norton adding, “It's fun to be an actor, but as everyone in this room knows, it's a true privilege to be a working actor."

The four SAG Awards in the individual film acting categories all fell in line with the recent Golden Globe Awards, suggesting that all four SAG winners have to be considered the Oscar favorites in their respective categories.

Up against Birdman's Keaton, The Theory of Everything's Eddie Redmayne was the victor in the outstanding actor category for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking. He dedicated the award “to those people around the world living with ALS, to those who have lost their lives to this brutal disease.”

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The award for outstanding actress went to Julianne Moore for playing a woman confronting early-onset Alzheimer's in Still Alice. Moore, who previously won a SAG Award for playing Sarah Palin in the TV movie Game Change, spoke about how she has enjoyed working with her follow actors ever since she played twin sisters on the TV soap As the World Turns and “realized it was super boring to act by myself.”

For playing Boyhood's resilient mom, Patricia Arquette prevailed in the best supporting actress category. “I'm a fourth-generation actor, my family has been committed to acting for over a century, through feast and famine,” she noted as she accepted the trophy, before offering her thanks, which included a shout-out to the film's director Richard Linklater “for showing me the beauty of the human experience and how we all matter.”

J.K. Simmons also claimed his first SAG Award for his supporting performance as a demanding music teacher in Whiplash. Thanking all 49 actors who shared the screen with him in Damien Chazelle's indie film, he commented, “I feel all of us actors are supporting actors,” supporting each other and the entire film.

The film awards were spread out among a number of indie distributors, with Sony Pictures Classics having distributed two of the films, Still Alice and Whiplash, and Fox Searchlight, Focus and IFC all having released one each. Universal also was repped by a stunt ensemble award.

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Downton Abbey followed up its SAG Award win two years ago by once again taking home the prize for outstanding TV dramatic series ensemble, with its castmembers who were present offering a tag-team acceptance speech.

Viola Davis, who has two SAG Awards for The Help on her résumé, earned her first SAG Award for TV as outstanding drama series actress for her performance as a legal hotshot in How to Get Away With Murder. She earned a big round of applause from the crowd when she thanked ABC execs and the show's creators for imagining that the series' sexualized and mixed-up heroine could be played by “a 49-year-old, dark-skinned African-American woman who looks like me.”

Following up his recent Golden Globe win, Kevin Spacey claimed the prize for best actor in a drama series for his conniving politician in Netflix' House of Cards, but Spacey — who previously won two SAG Awards for the film American Beauty — wasn't present to accept.

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On the TV comedy side, SAG opted shake things up by giving its ensemble award to the Netflix prison dramedy Orange Is the New Black, nominated for the first time this year. Uzo Aduba accepted for the huge cast, just moments after she also upstaged many more established performers by winning the award for female actress in a comedy series. “Oh my God, I really, truly do not know what to say,” she said as she collected herself at the podium before accepting the best actress award.

William H. Macy took home the award for actor in a comedy series for playing the shambling dad in Showtime's Shameless. A nine-time nominee — he won once before for the TV movie Door to Door — Macy joked, “I've written so many great acceptance speeches that I never got to give, but not tonight!”

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The award for actress in a TV movie or miniseries went to Frances McDormand — who previously won a SAG Award for the film Fargo — for her performance as an ornery woman in HBO's Olive Kittredge. She used her turn at podium to urge viewers to check the telefilm out, saying, “I'm proclaiming if you haven't seen Olive Kittredge, you need to. You can stream it — I don't know how.”

Mark Ruffalo joined the list of first-time SAG winners by claiming the honors as actor in a TV movie or miniseries for his turn as an AIDS activist in HBO's The Normal Heart, although he wasn't present to accept.

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Netflix, with its awards for House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, could boast of three wins, while HBO also had three, including a stunt ensemble award, and ABC, Showtime and PBS had one each.

Carrie Fisher introduced her mother, Debbie Reynolds, recipient of this year's SAG Life Achievement Award. Fisher testified, with tongue firmly in cheek, “Actually, she has been more than a mother to me — not much, but definitely more.” And she also poked fun at herself, pointing out that her mother was “co-founder of the Thalians, a group that has raised more than $30 million for mental-health-related causes — and $4.5 million of that money is allocated just to me.” Reynolds, in her acceptance, noted, “I've been in this business now 66 years, so I'm very excited to be here.” Citing the song she sang in The Unsinkable Molly Brown called “I Ain't Down Yet,” she concluded her remarks by saying, “Well, I ain't. Thank you all very much.”

Prior to the broadcast, SAG Awards committee chair JoBeth Williams and vice chair Daryl Anderson announced that Universal's Unbroken and HBO's Game of Thrones had won the awards for outstanding action performances by a stunt ensemble in film and TV, respectively.