Tate Donovan, left, as Bob Anders, Clea DuVall as Cora Lijek, Christopher… (Warner Bros. Pictures )
Back in 1986, Ben Affleck earned his SAG card for appearing in the ABC Afterschool Special “Wanted: The Perfect Guy.” As a teenage performer, he scarcely could have imagined that a quarter-century later, the same guild would be nominating a movie he directed and starred in -- the CIA thriller "Argo" -- for its top film award, outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture.
"Argo" was nominated Wednesday for the SAG cast award, along with "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” “Les Miserables,” “Lincoln” and “Silver Linings Playbook.” The SAG nominations are considered to be one of the trustiest predictors of the Oscar best-picture contest.
"This ensemble award reflects the work for more than 120 people with speaking roles," Affleck said in an interview Wednesday morning. "They were multilingual, multinational. Everybody had a sense that it was about something important, something that really happened. Virtually every actor brought a story."
Affleck said he learned of his film’s nomination, as well as a SAG supporting actor nod for cast member Alan Arkin, in a call from his wife, Jennifer Garner. “SAG is very special to me,” he added. “I’ve been a member of SAG for 25 years. I think I’ve qualified for my pension.” (For all you Ben Affleck trivia fans, actor Keith Szarabajka, who appeared with Affleck in the 1986 Afterschool Special, also has a part in "Argo.")
While “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” a comedy about a group of British retirees in India, was a slight surprise in the category, the other four selections were favorites.
(Another possible best picture Oscar nominee, the independently produced "Beasts of the Southern Wild," is ineligible for the SAG Awards because it wasn't shot under the terms of the union's low-budget feature agreement.)
The SAG Awards are a significant Oscar bellwether because actors are the largest single voting bloc within the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
Last season, four of SAG's five ensemble nominees went on to earn best picture Oscar nominations -- "The Help," "The Artist," "The Descendants" and "Midnight in Paris," although SAG ultimately chose “The Help” as the year’s top film and the academy chose “The Artist.”
The SAG Awards will be handed out Jan. 27.
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