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SAG honors
Capote, shuts out Brokeback

SAG honors
Capote, shuts out Brokeback

Crash, a racial drama that hinges on unexpected turns of events, scored a major upset on Sunday over Oscar favorite Brokeback Mountain when it won the ensemble cast award from the Screen Actors Guild. For weeks, Brokeback had been collecting one film award after another, draining any suspense out of the race for the March 5 Academy Awards. Its latest award came on Saturday night when its director, Ang Lee, won the award for best director of a feature film from the Directors Guild of America, often an Oscar barometer.

But Brokeback may have hit a bump in the road with the unexpected victory for the cast of Crash, an ensemble drama about 36 hours in Los Angeles when a minor traffic accident triggers a series of racial confrontations that ends in murder. The film has more than 70 actors, including many A-listers who worked for scale, including Sandra Bullock and Don Cheadle. One reason for its success at SAG may be that its distributor, Lions Gate, sent members of the Guild DVDs of the film, which had been released in May and was pretty well forgotten by the time the awards season started. Its director and cowriter, Paul Haggis, said on Saturday that he thought he was just a lucky man to be nominated for anything and that making the film was a touch-and-go effort in which the producers frequently ran out of money and had to use Haggis's own home for rehearsals.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was named best actor for his role as writer Truman Capote in Capote, and Reese Witherspoon best actress for her role as June Carter Cash in the Johnny Cash biography Walk the Line. "Sometimes I just really can't shake the feeling that I am really just a little girl from Tennessee," Witherspoon said. The prizes bolster both Hoffman's and Witherspoon's chances of winning an Oscar when the Academy Awards are presented in March.

Paul Giamatti, an often ignored character actor, won the best supporting actor award for his role as the manager in Cinderella Man, about the life of Depression-era boxer James J. Braddock. British actress Rachel Weisz won best supporting actress for her role as the doomed activist wife of a British diplomat in The Constant Gardener, a film based on a thriller by spy novelist John Le Carre.

ABC's hit series Lost and Desperate Housewives won top acting honors for television. The Lost cast won the best ensemble performance award for a dramatic television series, while Desperate Housewives received the ensemble award for best comedy series. It was the first nomination and win for Lost, a castaway thriller that has helped reinvigorate ABC's prime-time schedule.

S. Epatha Merkerson won the award for best actress in a television movie for her performance in Lackawanna Blues and had the audience erupting in laughter and applause when she thanked her divorce lawyer. Felicity Huffman was named best actress in a comedy series for her work in Desperate Housewives.

Sandra Oh was named best actress in a television drama for her work as a fledgling doctor in Grey's Anatomy on ABC, while Kiefer Sutherland was named best actor in a dramatic series for his work as a U.S. agent out to foil terrorist plots in 24 on Fox. Breathless and in tears, Oh, who also won a Golden Globe for her role, thanked her fellow Asian-American actors. She said: "I share this with encouraged and keep shining."

Sean Hayes, named best actor for his role in the gay-themed NBC comedy Will & Grace, joked about the publicity around Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain as he accepted his award. "First of all, I would like to thank Ang Lee for taking a chance on me," he said. "I know everyone in Hollywood knows it's such a risk to play a gay character."

Brokeback has won major craft guild awards from Hollywood producers and directors, and a victory at SAG for best ensemble cast--the top award given by actors--would have made it virtually unbeatable at the Academy Awards. Not everyone is comfortable with the film, whose theme is a forbidden romance between two cowboys. President George W. Bush ducked a question last week on whether he planned to see the film, and no movie whose theme concerns a gay romance has won a best-picture Oscar, the symbol of mainstream success. Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday. (Arthur Spiegelman, Reuters)

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