SAG Awards: Look Out for Jennifer Aniston

The demographics of SAG-AFTRA — many members work primarily in TV and stunts, hail from Los Angeles and make more populist choices than Oscar voters — could play to the advantage of the former 'Friends' star
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Jennifer Aniston in 'Cake'

Nobody has been a bigger believer in Julianne Moore’s Oscar prospects this season than me — I called her for the win before Still Alice, in which she plays a woman diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, was even acquired by Sony Pictures Classics, and my gushing praise of her has been featured in their “For Your Consideration” ads.

That being said, I would not rule out the possibility that Moore could be upset at the SAG Awards on Jan. 25.

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Why? Because Jennifer Aniston, who is nominated opposite Moore for her performance in Cake as a woman suffering from chronic pain, has a lot going for her with that particular voting body.

The winners of the SAG Awards are determined by the entire 100,000-plus-person membership of SAG-AFTRA, the largest actors’ union in America. This group is more populist and diverse than the 1,150-person acting branch of the Academy. Moore is a favorite of the art house crowd, but Aniston is the people’s choice; you can guess whose SAG/SAG Foundation Q&As have attracted bigger turnouts.

A considerable percentage of SAG-AFTRA members also work primary in the medium of television, not film, and their votes have often reflected this; Aniston, having made her bones over the course of her decade on the hit network show Friends before crossing over into film, may be more likely to capture their interest and support than Moore. (To paraphrase a famous theme song, I suspect "they'll be there for you," Jen.)

Another consideration is that stunt people, while not represented in the Academy (despite regular calls for a branch of their own), do get to vote for the SAG Awards; Cake is a film that has a following among the stunt community, within which it is well known that Aniston’s character was largely inspired by her friend, stunt double and stunt coordinator Stacy Courtney.

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It is also worth noting that SAG-AFTRA members often reward performances that demonstrate an obvious physical transformation (de-glamorization, a physical disability, etc.); while I would argue that Moore’s acting is on a different level than Aniston’s this year, I do think that Aniston’s turn — with contortion and without makeup — looks harder.

Last, but certainly not least, Aniston is a longtime Angeleno, whereas Moore is a longtime New Yorker; with an estimated 75 percent of SAG-AFTRA members based on the West Coast, the hometown girl might have a leg up.

The main thing shared in common by the films in which these two performances are featured is that people are not particularly enthusiastic to watch either of them because of their gloomy subject matter — this also applies to the other three best actress nominees’ films, Gone Girl, The Theory of Everything and Wild — but both were made available to the entire SAG-AFTRA membership (Still Alice via hard-copy screener, Cake via digital screener) so they'll both probably get an equally fair hearing.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg