More crown jewels for Dame Helen

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Dame Helen Mirren continued her triumphant march towards the Oscars today, picking up two more trophies at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

The emotional actress sniffed back tears as she took to the stage to collect the best actress gong for her title role in The Queen.

"What an incredible night for me personally," the 61 year old said.

She paid tribute to the Queen as a courageous woman with a "great sense" of discipline and duty, whom she had learned to love.

Earlier Dame Helen had been honoured for her other regal role, as Elizabeth I in the TV mini-series of the same name.

Dame Helen has already won a string of honours including a Golden Globe for The Queen, and is widely tipped to get the best actress Oscar for her role in the film about the Royal Family's reaction to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

She picked up a Globe and an Emmy for her portrayal of Elizabeth I.

"Be still my beating heart, be still," she said as she went to collect her second award of the night at the SAGs in Los Angeles.

"When I did my costume fitting for The Queen I walked in and saw those sensible shoes, and those tweed skirts laid out in a row, and I cried," she said.

"I thought, I can't play anyone who chooses to wear those clothes, I just can't do it.

"But I learnt to love the person who chooses to wears those clothes, because I learned to love a person without vanity, but with a great sense of discipline that I understand, with a great sense of duty that I understand.

"And with a great deal of courage, and that I understand.

"Thank you very much, this is a great night for me."

Dame Helen also paid tribute to director Stephen Frears and writer Peter Morgan.

"Without those amazing words none of us can do what we do," she said.

Her co-star in Elizabeth I, Jeremy Irons, also got a gong, for his portrayal of the Tudor monarch's love, the Earl of Leicester.

Hugh Laurie was honoured for his role as cantankerous Dr Gregory House in US TV drama House.

Bitter-sweet road trip movie Little Miss Sunshine took the film ensemble prize, the SAG equivalent of a best picture award.

Backstage, Dame Helen said: "It's been the most incredible year for me, ever. That's been amazing at this end of my life."

She diplomatically avoided talking about whether she wanted the Oscar.

Both she and Irons paid tribute to the inspiration they took from American film actors.

Irons, who got a Golden Globe for his role in Elizabeth I earlier this month, said he was "amazed" by his award.

"It's a huge honour I shall treasure it forever," he added.

Laurie called his win "phenomenal".

Irish-born actor Peter O'Toole went away empty-handed, beaten to the best actor honour by Forest Whitaker, who won for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.

O'Toole is also up for an Oscar for his role in Venus as a .

There was a lifetime achievement award for Dame Julie Andrews, which the 71-year-old called a "really lovely honour".

Earlier, Eddie Murphy gently mocked the British winners as he began his acceptance speech for the supporting actor gong for his role in Dreamgirls, in an English accent.

"What a tremendous honour to be recognised by one's peers," the comedian said. "I've been acting for some 25 years now and this is a tremendous honour."

Laughing, he said the British were just "so smooth" when they took to the stage.

"I feel goofy up here," Murphy added.

And Laurie could not resist a dig back when he said dryly at one point in his speech: "I'm British by the way, which accounts for why I'm so smooth."

Soft-spoken Whitaker was struck almost speechless by his win, finding it hard to articulate his delight.

Former American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson was also emotional as she took best supporting actress for her soulful singing role in Dreamgirls.

The nominees for the SAGs were almost identical to those for the Oscars announced last week.

Individual winners at the guild's ceremony tend to fare well at the Academy Awards because many of the voters for those categories are also members of the academy's actors branch, which chooses the acting Oscars.

Last year three of the four SAG winners - Philip Seymour Hoffman, Reese Witherspoon and Rachel Weisz - all went on to bag Oscars.