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SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARDS

Everybody's acting tough

'No Country,' 'Blood' and 'Sopranos' have 2007's mean guys finishing first.

January 28, 2008|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

The night was ruled by gangsters, assassins and oil barons.

"No Country for Old Men" won top honors at the 14th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday night, taking home a statuette for best ensemble in a motion picture and a best supporting actor award for Javier Bardem, who plays a ruthless killing machine in the gritty film noir western directed by brothers Joel and Ethan Coen.

"It's a risky movie," said Josh Brolin, who stars in the film and spoke on behalf of the 47 performers in the cast, "and it's nice to have risky movies."

The double win for "No Country" bolsters its chances to win Oscar gold next month and comes on the heels of the Coen brothers also receiving the Directors Guild of America Award on Saturday evening.

The best actor award went to Daniel Day-Lewis for his transcendent performance as a greedy oilman in "There Will Be Blood." Day-Lewis is also considered the front-runner for a best actor Oscar, having won the Golden Globe and numerous other critics awards. Day-Lewis said he was dedicating his award to Heath Ledger, who died suddenly last week at age 28.

"In 'Brokeback Mountain' he was unique, he was perfect," Day-Lewis said, adding that the final scene was as perfect an acting moment as he had ever seen.

In youth-conscious Hollywood, it was quite a night for veteran performers.

Julie Christie, 66, won best actress in a feature film for playing a woman losing her battle with Alzheimer's in "Away From Her," also boosting her chances of taking home an Academy Award. Ruby Dee, 83, won best actress in a supporting role for playing the mother of a mobster in "American Gangster" and is also nominated for an Oscar as well.

And 84-year-old Charles Durning received the guild's lifetime achievement award.

Durning was one of World War II's most decorated soldiers, a boxer and a ballroom dancer -- all before becoming a performer. He was praised by Denis Leary, who plays his son on FX's "Rescue Me," as "one of our industry's finest character actors. I'd say he's the best."

A noticeably frail Durning was helped on stage to a standing ovation and cheers.

"That's it?" he joked when he got there. Acting, he added, is a dream come true for him, and he still has much to learn. "I'm just getting the hang of it," he said to laughter.

A "fond and final farewell" was bid to performers who passed away over the last year, including opera singers Beverly Sills and Luciano Pavarotti, Oscar winner Jane Wyman, talk show host Merv Griffin and actress Deborah Kerr.

The last image in the montage was of Ledger, who was nominated for a SAG award two years ago for "Brokeback Mountain."

Several winners were no-shows, among them: Kevin Kline, who won for best actor in a TV movie or miniseries for HBO's version of Shakespeare's comedy "As You Like It"; Queen Latifah, who won best actress in a TV movie or miniseries for HBO's "Life Support"; and Alec Baldwin, who won best actor in a comedy series for NBC's "30 Rock."

There was no indication of a writers strike going on as the ceremony got underway at the Shrine Auditorium. Forty minutes into the show, telecast on TNT and TBS, Tina Fey acknowledged the elephant in the room.

"I want to thank everyone in SAG for being so supportive of the Writers Guild," said Fey, accepting her statuette for best actress in a TV comedy series for "30 Rock," which she created and also writes.

For the second year in a row, NBC's "The Office" won for ensemble in a TV comedy series.

SAG also honored stunt ensembles and coordinators for the first time, with wins going to the TV series "24" and the film "The Bourne Ultimatum."

"The Sopranos" took the triple crown, winning for best ensemble, best drama series actor for James Gandolfini and best actress for Edie Falco. The win was especially sweet for the stars as they walk away from the roles after a decade. Last month, "The Sopranos" -- save for a nod for Falco -- had been shut out of the Golden Globe nominations.

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susan.king@latimes.com

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