Daniel Day-Lewis and British veteran Julie Christie underscored their status as Oscars frontrunners on Sunday after winning the top prizes at the 14th Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG) awards.
British-born star Day-Lewis was crowned best actor for his performance as a tyrannical oil prospector in There Will Be Blood while Christie earned the best actress prize for playing an Alzheimer’s sufferer in Away From Her.
Day-Lewis’s and Christie’s wins shorten the odds on them claiming the equivalent acting awards at the Oscars, which take place on February 25.
The SAG awards have been a reliable indicator of likely Oscars success. For the past three years, the best actor and actress winners have gone on to win Academy Awards.
In a moving acceptance speech, Day-Lewis dedicated his award to Heath Ledger, who died aged 28 in New York last week, saying the Australian actor was someone whose performances inspired him to keep working.
”There are many actors in this room tonight [Sunday], including my fellow nominees who’ve given me that sense of regeneration. Heath Ledger gave it to me,” he said, to loud applause. Ledger’s performance in the 2005 gay cowboy drama Brokeback Mountain had been ”unique”, Day-Lewis said.
”That scene in the trailer at the end of the film is as moving as anything I’ve ever seen and I’d like to dedicate this to him,” he added.
Christie (66), meanwhile, paid tribute to the cast and crew of her drama about a woman slowly descending into dementia and joked: ”If I’ve forgotten anybody it’s just that I’m still in character.”
Both Day-Lewis and Christie won Golden Globes awards earlier this month for their performances.
The SAG awards took place this year amid a Hollywood writers’ strike that forced the cancellation of other awards shows, most notably the Golden Globes, after actors vowed to boycott the event in solidarity with writers.
In other awards on Sunday, Javier Bardem cemented his status as an Oscars certainty after picking up the best supporting actor award for his portrayal of a psychopathic hitman in No Country for Old Men.
The Spanish star paid tribute to the film’s directors, Joel and Ethan Coen, after collecting his prize.
”Thank you for hiring me and showing the hard work and dedication to get the good takes instead of the ones where I really sucked,” Bardem said.
”To receive this is thoroughly unbelievable. I’m a Spanish actor and being welcomed this way from all of you it’s more than I can express in words.”
No Country for Old Men, a favourite to dominate at the Oscars after earning eight nominations, also won the award for best ensemble cast.
The best supporting actress saw a surprise win for 83-year-old Ruby Dee, winning for her performance in the Ridley Scott-directed crime drama American Gangster. The heavy pre-awards favourite had been Australian icon Cate Blanchett for her portrayal of Bob Dylan in I’m Not There.
Dee was also last week nominated for an Oscar for the role.
The television acting awards were dominated by long-running mob drama The Sopranos. The groundbreaking HBO series scooped awards for best actor, best actress and best ensemble cast. — AFP