British stars Daniel Day-Lewis and Julie Christie triumphed with lead actor accolades at the Screen Actors Guild Awards today, giving them a boost for the upcoming Oscars.
No Country For Old Men also solidified its Academy Awards prospects as Javier Bardem won as supporting-actor and the film was honoured for overall cast at the awards held at Los Angeles Shrine Exposition Centre.
Day-Lewis won his award for There Will Be Blood and Christie for Away From Her.
Day-Lewis dedicated his win to actor Heath Ledger, who was found dead in his Manhattan apartment last week.
"In Brokeback Mountain, he was unique, he was perfect," said Day-Lewis, already an Oscar winner for My Left Foot.
"That scene in the trailer at the end of the film is as moving as anything I think I've ever seen."
The SAG show itself was generally free of writers' strike talk, with only Christie addressing the matter openly among the winners.
"It's lovely to receive an award from your own union," Christie said, "especially at a time when we're being so forcefully reminded how important unions are."
Bardem had kind words for Joel and Ethan Coen, who directed No Country and adapted the screenplay from Cormac McCarthy's novel.
"Thank you, guys, for hiring me, and thank you for taking the hard work of choosing the good takes instead of the ones where I really sucked," said Bardem, who won for his chilling role as a relentless killer tracking a fortune in missing drug money.
Ruby Dee, 83, won supporting actress for American Gangster and shared fond thoughts of her late husband and frequent acting partner, Ossie Davis, who died in 2005.
The Sopranos grabbed all three TV drama categories to open the ceremony, with James Gandolfini and Edie Falco taking both lead-acting prizes and the entire ensemble joining them to accept the award for overall cast performance.
For comedy series, Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey were the lead-acting winners for 30 Rock, while The Office won for best ensemble.
Normally a lesser cousin to the Golden Globes and Oscars, the SAG Awards could end up being the biggest celebration this time around.
The swanky Globes were cancelled because of a strike by the Writers Guild of America, which refused to let its members work on the show, and the fate of the Oscars on February 24 is in question because of the same quarrel.
The SAG honours escaped because the actors union has been steadfast in support of striking writers, who in turn gave their blessing to the SAG ceremony.
Instead of the debacle for the Globes, which were curtailed to a star-free news conference after actors and film-makers made it clear they would not cross writers' picket lines, the SAG ceremony came off with a full complement of Hollywood A-listers.
"We're really proud of the solidarity we've built with the Writers Guild," said Alan Rosenberg, the SAG president.
The obligatory package of clips to honour stars who died in the past year took on more immediacy, ending with a moment from Brokeback Mountain featuring Ledger.
The cause of the 28-year-old actor's death had not yet been determined.
The guild presented its life-achievement award to Charles Durning, whose credits include The Sting, Tootsie" and O Brother, Where Art Thou?
The guild's first-ever prizes for best stunt ensemble went to The Bourne Ultimatum for films and drama 24 for TV before the ceremony began.
Yesterday No Country For Old Men won top honours at the Directors Guild of America Awards for the Coen brothers; the winner there usually goes on to take home the directing Oscar.
As with the Golden Globes, the Writers Guild has made it clear that its members would not be allowed to work on the Oscars. While stars generally have said they would skip the show rather than cross picket lines, Oscar organisers insist their telecast will take place as scheduled.
Amy Ryan, a SAG and Oscar supporting-actress nominee for Gone Baby Gone, said at the Directors Guild awards that she would not cross a picket line to attend the Oscars.
"I hope it ends but, more, I hope the writers get their due," Ryan said.
"I think that, at the end of the day, is more important than a party. But I really hope it works out because I'd like to go to the party."