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Cage, Sarandon Capture Top Screen Actor Awards

Honors: 'Apollo 13,' 'E.R.,' and 'Friends' are recognized for their ensemble performances.

February 26, 1996|SCOTT COLLINS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

People 15, pigs 0.

The cast of "Apollo 13" and Nicolas Cage and Susan Sarandon took top honors Saturday night at the second annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, which passed out 15 film and TV acting honors. But the talking pig from the Oscar-nominated film "Babe" was nowhere to be found.

Cage won the Actor statuette for best male actor in a movie for playing a dying alcoholic in the moody and elegiac "Leaving Las Vegas." Sarandon won for best female performance for her role as a crusading nun in the capital punishment drama "Dead Man Walking." Both have been nominated for Academy Awards.

"I did this movie for a fraction of what I normally make," said Cage, clutching the 10-pound bronze-and-marble statuette backstage. "I always want to do movies where I take chances."

Sarandon, who was nominated but did not win an Actor last year for "The Client," told reporters the success of the issue-oriented "Dead Man Walking" proves "how we [in the entertainment industry] have underestimated American audiences."

The SAG awards, telecast from the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, may have yielded a couple clues to next month's Oscars (the Academy is due to mail final ballots March 6).

But elsewhere, the 84,000-member guild parted ways with the academy, ignoring "Braveheart," actor-director Mel Gibson's 13th century Scottish war epic that earned 10 Oscar nominations, as well as "Babe." Neither earned a single SAG nomination, let alone award.

Two other Oscar nominees had a good night. Kate Winslet, who was not present, won a supporting Actor in the 19th century romance "Sense and Sensibility." And Ed Harris won twice for the same role--once for best male supporting actor as the tough NASA boss in "Apollo 13" and again as a member of the best film ensemble.

"Kevin [Bacon] and I are frustrated," "Apollo 13" star Tom Hanks quipped backstage, "because we are both in an Ed Harris film but shared no scenes with him."

The top-rated hospital drama "E.R." led the television awards. Anthony Edwards beat out co-star George Clooney for an Actor award for best male performance, and the entire cast shared the prize for outstanding dramatic ensemble.

Referring to Clooney's recent film deal to play Batman, Edwards told the audience: "Hopefully, I can be his batboy, or catboy, I don't know what I can play."

The cast of the Gen-X sitcom "Friends" took top honors for a comedy series. Since "Friends" and "E.R." bookend NBC's hit Thursday prime-time lineup, broadcasting the SAG awards gave the network a chance to pat itself on the back.

Gillian Anderson won an Actor as best female TV performer for her leading role in the Fox series "The X-Files," while David Hyde Pierce of "Frasier" and Christine Baranski of "Cybill" shared Actor awards in comedy series.

Winning for their leading roles in TV movies were Gary Sinise in "Truman" and Alfre Woodard in "The Piano Lesson, Hallmark Hall of Fame."

As previously announced, Robert Redford, who was not present, received the SAG Life Achievement Award for "fostering the finest ideals of the acting profession."

Like last month's Golden Globes, the SAG awards combined the worlds of film and TV, with the pre-show limousine arrivals offering a virtual who's who of Hollywood acting talent. Platoons of fans and photographers could be heard cheering and shouting from several blocks away.

For many, it was but a mere warmup for the Oscars on March 25. But Hanks, following his best-actor wins for "Philadelphia" and "Forrest Gump," sounded relieved to be rid of the pressure.

"I'm gonna be parking cars and seating people" at the Academy Awards, he told reporters. "I bet I clear $100 in tips."

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