Backstage At The SAG Awards

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Ray Richmond and Anthony D’Alessandro are contributing to Deadline’s SAG Awards coverage.

Oscar season just became a lot more interesting. Putting a roadblock in the path of The Weinstein Co.’s The Artist, actors — who make up the largest voting constituency at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, cast their vote for The Help. Perhaps the most profound comment of the cast came from Cicely Tyson, who exclaimed, “I am not surprised that Octavia (Spencer) and Viola (Davis) were awarded the most believable work in a film. What surprised me was that they were both black. That’s unusual. I remember when Diana Ross and myself were up for best actress (Editor’s note: 1972, Ross was up for Lady Sings The Blues, Tyson for Sounder) and there was a lot of talk that only one of us would win. What protected me from grave disappointment was that I deduced that Liza Minnelli would win (for Cabaret). Her mother (Judy Garland) never won an Oscar, her father was Vincente Minnelli and she was dating Lucille Ball’s son. When the category came up at the Oscars, the camera fell on my face and I said Liza Minnelli. But what I saw tonight was extreme promise and hope. The thought that women could never work at the box office, overworked this time. I’m hoping the industry recognizes us artists and not just as females.”

Sissy Spacek, Emma Stone, Allison Janney, Jessica Chastain (also up for a supporting actress award tonight) crowded backstage with Davis and Spencer, best dramatic and supporting actress. Davis said, “During the course of promoting this movie, I had to defend my choice of playing a maid in 1963 Mississippi. I had to find my voice as a woman of color, an artist, and I never thought I would be put in a position like that. I’ve been doing scenes as a character (actress) in the background, pushed against the wall and it made me feel like Aibileen felt: I’m not staying in the background anymore.” As far as beating Meryl Streep, her Doubt co-star, Davis said, “I feel pretty overwhelmed that my name was being announced tonight. I don’t see this as a ‘best’ thing going on. When I start a job, I do it 0with a clean slate. Just because I beat Meryl Streep only means that a few more people checked my name on the the box.”…

Jean Dujardin was in a playful mood after his surprising win for lead male actor for his silent work in The Artist. He began modestly, saying he isn’t the star of the film. “The star is the movie itself,” the Frenchman said in his heavily accented English. “The project is … well…” Dujardin then stopped to poke fun at himself — “Boring…” He continued, “It’s a feel-good movie, a love story…and there’s a cute dog. And everyone loves a cute dog.” Will his career now include a round of American films? “I’m not a prophet. Maybe another silent movie in America?” Finally, Dujardin was asked to assess his Oscar chances, considering that the last seven winners of his category at the SAG Awards went on to take the Best Actor trophy at the Academy Awards. He put his fingers in his ears and began to intone, “La-la-la-la…” When the questioner persisted, pointing out that three Frenchmen previously have been nominated for Oscars and all have lost, Dujardin began to sing the French National Anthem. Then he said, “It’s unbelievable already.” …

The cast of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire basked in the glow of the SAG Award for top TV drama series ensemble for the second year running, paralleled by Steve Buscemi’s second consecutive award for lead drama actor. Buscemi was characteristically modest backstage: “I still feel like a character actor. It’s a real honor. Truly for me, it’s all about being part of an ensemble. The star of the show is really Atlantic City and we all live and work there.” Added Gretchen Mol, who stars in the series as Gillian Darmody, “It’s amazing what we’re able to get away with. We’ve gone somewhere I never expected to go. The writers in that room, I don’t know how they come up with what they do. It’s so bold and so scary and somehow they get away with it.” Then there’s co-star Michael Pitt, who was focused on getting a meal and a cigarette. “But besides that, I guess it feels good.” …

A third time was a charm for Jessica Lange as she nabbed a SAG win this time around for FX’s American Horror Story, following previous nominations for HBO’s 2009 film Grey Gardens and the 1994 feature Blue Sky. For Lange, what she’s savored with her campy role as the melodramatic mother of an adolescent mass murderer is the process: “Once I threw my lot in with this project, the ride was actually quite great. You couldn’t second guess or over think. That was a great way to work. There was a certain urgency to it (the acting process). I found it an interesting way to work and not limiting in what you were able to do. It’s a big character and I have a lot of fun with it. I’m open to the possibility of anything happening in the moment. I find it exhilarating and surprising and enjoy kicking it to another level. But again, the only way a role like this can work is when it’s supported by powerful writing.” After two Oscar wins though, can we expect Lange to return to high-caliber awards-season big-screen fare? “I think I did that genre,” she said. …

Octavia Spencer, the SAG winner for supporting female actor for her role in The Help and who previously won Golden Globe and a Critics Choice Award (and is nominated for an Oscar), took the opportunity backstage to speak out on behalf of not only those victimized by racism but the disenfranchised of all stripes. “There’s no need for me to be delicate,” she began. “I grew up in the Bible Belt, and I realize that even though I’ve never experienced bigotry, to be silent is to be passive. Taking this journey, I realized that I can’t be silent.” She added that civil rights should be granted to those who are “straight, gay, purple, green, black and brown. It needs to be extended to all Americans.” Spencer was also asked to speak out on so-called fat acceptance, noting, “If more women ate, they’d be a lot happier. I’m real grumpy when I don’t eat. It goes beyond the women. It’s what our society told them and actually continues to tell them that when they reach a certain weight and a certain age, they’re no longer valuable. So I think we need to start standing up for ourselves and say, ‘This is who I am.’ The perception has to change.” Of winning the SAG Award, Spencer said, “I’ve been a member of the Screen Actors Guild for 16 years, and to win this award is beyond profound for me. It’s your peers saying that you’re the best you can be tonight, and I’m thrilled to hold this honor — and for shining a light on women not given a voice in our industry.” …

After winning the statuette for male comedy series actor, Alec Baldwin exulted that he “wants a Season 7 really badly” for his NBC comedy 30 Rock, which wasn’t the case. It also indicated he wanted to return to the show himself. He also admitted that he’s still playing the online game that got him into trouble on American Airlines several weeks back. “But now it’s on Virgin Atlantic,” he quipped. …

The cast of ABC’s Modern Family had warm praise for each other backstage with their second SAG TV comedy ensemble win in a row. Commenting on what he’s learned as a child actor from his elders, Nolan Gould, who plays Luke Dunphy, joked, “I have learned a lot of curse words from them.” Rico Rodriguez sincerely said, “I learned to be a better actor.” “I’ve learned about things like union rules,” quipped Ty Burrell, referring to his junior co-stars. “They’ve been acting professionally since they were young.” “I think for most of us, in this situation (this win) exceeds the best-case scenario: the country really likes our show and we have a job where we generally love each other. I’ll offer a counterpoint to Alec Baldwin that we have the best writers in Hollywood.” Burrell hinted that future episode next season will deal with a different social issue, particularly “given our advantage as an unusual cast.” As for the positive impact the show has made on Julie Bowen in terms of social issues, the actress cracked, “I stopped beating my children in public.” After telling the press that she went “commando” to the Golden Globes, Sofia Vergara retorted, “I never said that! I said (my underwear) was made of paper. I always wear underwear, it’s just that they’re tiny.” …

After nabbing Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Movie Award wins for his portrayal in Beginners of a father who reveals his homosexuality after his wife’s death, Christopher Plummer moved himself one step closer to the Oscars with his first SAG win. He had previously been nominated for his supporting role in 2009’s The Last Station. “It’s awfully heavy,” said Plummer as he took the stage before the press. As far as his journey goes toward winning the Oscar, Plummer scolded a press member jokingly, “What an awful question! I can’t talk about that, it’s (the Oscars) at least three months away,” then quickly deadpanning, “Weeks.” Getting honored by his fellow actors, Plummer exclaimed wryly, “What sweethearts they are when they honor you like this. We often kill each other. We don’t go into this business (as actors) preoccupied by awards. If we did, we wouldn’t last five minutes.” Referring to his acceptance speech and how his “wife saved his life,” Plummer expounded, “I was a terrible drunk. She told me, ‘If you’re serious about getting together, you better stop drinking. I said, ‘Stop drinking? What am I going to do?’ She saved my life because I was going downhill.” …

  1. While Ms. Tyson deserved the nomination for Sounder, Liza Minnelli’s win for Cabaret had nothing to do with her lineage or romantic life at the time. Her performance in that film was most definitely deserving of Best Actress.

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