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'Slumdog Millionaire' continues its winning ways at SAG Awards

'30 Rock' sweeps the comedy series categories; 'John Adams' and 'The Dark Knight' each win two statues.

January 26, 2009|Susan King

There's just no stopping "Slumdog Millionaire."

The uplifting film about an impoverished Indian orphan who enjoys a remarkable run on a game show won the Screen Actors Guild award Sunday night for motion picture ensemble, continuing its incredible run this award season.

The movie itself has become known as a show-business Cinderella story. Soon after "Slumdog Millionaire" finished filming last year, its American distributor, Warner Independent Pictures, was shut down, putting its release in jeopardy. Then Fox Searchlight acquired the film's distribution rights. The film, set in Mumbai, swept the Golden Globes two weeks ago and was nominated last week for 10 Academy Awards. And Saturday, it won the top Producers Guild of America award.

Anil Kapoor, who plays the TV game show host in the movie, accepted on behalf of the cast and exclaimed that it was enough just to be nominated. "But to win this is unbelievable," he said.

The cast members of "Slumdog" weren't the only actors shocked by a win at the 15th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, which was held at the Shrine Exposition Center. A clearly surprised Meryl Streep ran to the lectern, arms raised, and gave presenter Ralph Fiennes a kiss on the lips after she won for her lead performance as a stern nun in "Doubt."

"I didn't even buy a dress!" said Streep, showing the audience that she was wearing black pants and a black wrap top. "I'm really, really, really shocked."

Sean Penn was greeted with a standing ovation and cheers as he won for lead actor for playing slain gay rights activist Harvey Milk in "Milk." "This is a story about equal rights for human beings," he said when accepting his award.

The late Heath Ledger was honored for his turn as the Joker in "The Dark Knight." Gary Oldman, who costarred in the Batman film, accepted the supporting actor award on behalf of Ledger, who died last January at age 28 from a prescription drug overdose.

"I'm quite emotional," said Oldman. "It is a great honor to be asked to accept this on behalf of Heath. He was an extraordinary young man with an extraordinary talent." "The Dark Knight" also won for movie stunt ensemble, an award handed out before the show.

James Earl Jones was also honored Sunday night with SAG's life achievement award. Forest Whitaker presented the honor to the star of theater, film and television, lauding him as not only a great man but "a king amongst men" and one who could by turns be the voice of CNN, Darth Vader and Simba's warmhearted father in "The Lion King."

Jones received a hearty ovation. "I've got something to say here," he said, trying to quiet the crowd. "I want to thank my fellow actors for this honor. . . . Mainly, I want to thank all of you for all the work that you do. . . . It always makes me proud to be one of you."

Laura Linney won for female actor in a TV movie or miniseries for her work as Abigail Adams in the HBO miniseries "John Adams." "The joy of making that project is that I got to spend a lot of time with some wonderful, wonderful actors," Linney said. Likewise, her costar, Paul Giamatti, won for actor in a TV movie or miniseries for playing the title role.

Hugh Laurie picked up his second award for actor in a drama series for his acerbic turn as a brilliant, unconventional doctor in "House M.D." "This is amazing," he quipped. "I actually had $100 on [fellow nominee] James Spader. I guess it's just not my night."

Jon Hamm, star of the ratings-challenged cable series "Mad Men," also earned laughs while speaking for the rest of the cast as he picked up the statuette for ensemble in a drama. Among those he thanked: "our dozens of viewers."

Sally Field won for female actor in a drama series as the matriarch of a dysfunctional family in "Brothers & Sisters." "I have been an actor for 45 years," she said. "I am so proud to be an actor and so proud that my fellow actors would give me this."

Kate Winslet won for female actor in a supporting role for playing an ex-Nazi prison guard who enters into an affair with a teenage boy in "The Reader," which received a best picture Oscar nomination on Thursday.

"What a year it has been for movies," said the actress, who is having an extraordinary run. For years, she racked up nominations for her work in such films as "Titanic," "Little Children" and "Iris" but failed to win. This year has been different: She gained widespread acclaim for "The Reader" and "Revolutionary Road" and won Golden Globes two weeks ago in this category for "The Reader" and as best actress for "Revolutionary Road."

Meanwhile, "30 Rock" continued its winning ways. After sweeping the Golden Globes two weeks ago, the NBC sitcom took all three comedy series awards, with star and creator Tina Fey earning honors as female actor, Alec Baldwin winning for male actor, and their costars joining them for the cast award.

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