The only party in town?

With the writers' strike threatening the Oscars, this year's ceremony may be stars' only time to shine.

Associated Press
Published January 28, 2008

LOS ANGELES - No Country for Old Men solidified its Academy Awards prospects as Javier Bardem won as supporting actor and the film was honored for its overall cast at Sunday's Screen Actors Guild Awards, which may stand as the highlight of Hollywood's film honors season if the writers' strike undermines the Oscars.

Past Oscar winners Daniel Day-Lewis of There Will Be Blood and Julie Christie of Away From Her won the lead acting honors, also giving them a boost to win the same trophies at the Oscars.

Day-Lewis dedicated his win to Heath Ledger, found dead in his Manhattan loft last week.

"In Brokeback Mountain, he was unique, he was perfect," said Day-Lewis, already an Oscar winner for My Left Foot. "That scene in the trailer at the end of the film is as moving as anything I think I've ever seen."

The SAG show itself was generally free of labor talk, with only Christie addressing the matter openly among the winners.

"It's lovely to receive an award from your own union," Christie said "especially at a time when we're being so forcefully reminded how important unions are."

Bardem had kind words for Joel and Ethan Coen, who directed No Country and adapted the screenplay from Cormac McCarthy's novel.

"Thank you, guys, for hiring me, and thank you for taking the hard work of choosing the good takes instead of the ones where I really sucked," said Bardem, who won for his chilling role as a relentless killer tracking a fortune in missing drug money.

Ruby Dee won supporting actress for American Gangster. She shared fond thoughts of her late husband and frequent acting partner, Ossie Davis, who died in 2005. "I accept it also for my husband, Ossie, because he's working on things up there," said Dee, 83.

The Sopranos grabbed all three TV drama categories to open the ceremony, with James Gandolfini and Edie Falco taking both lead acting prizes and the entire ensemble joining them to accept the award for overall cast performance. The show's last episode aired several months ago.

For comedy series, Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey were the lead-acting winners for 30 Rock, while The Office won for best ensemble.

Normally a lesser cousin to the Golden Globes and Oscars, the SAG Awards could end up being the biggest celebration this time around. The swanky Globes were canceled because of a strike by the Writers Guild of America, which refused to let its members work on the show, and the fate of the Oscars on Feb. 24 is in question because of the same labor quarrel.

While stars generally have said they would skip the show rather than cross picket lines, Oscar organizers insist their telecast will take place as scheduled.

Not so for the SAG honors. The actors' union has been steadfast in support of striking writers, who in turn gave their blessing to the SAG ceremony.

Instead of the debacle for the Globes, which were curtailed to a star-free news conference after actors and filmmakers made it clear they would not cross writers' picket lines, the SAG ceremony came off with a full complement of Hollywood A-listers.

The obligatory package of clips to honor stars who died in the past year took on more immediacy, ending with a moment from Brokeback Mountain featuring Ledger. The cause of the 28-year-old actor's death has not been determined.

The guild presented its life achievement award to Charles Durning, whose credits include The Sting, Tootsie and O Brother, Where Art Thou?

The guild's first-ever prizes for best stunt ensemble went to The Bourne Ultimatum for films and 24 for TV before the ceremony began.

For a complete list of winners, visit entertainment.tampabay.com or www.sagawards.org