"The Help" gets Oscar boost with big SAG wins

Mon Jan 30, 2012 8:45am EST
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Civil rights drama "The Help" got a leg up in the Oscar race on Sunday when the movie won three awards from the Screen Actors Guild, including best cast in a surprise over silent movie romance "The Artist."

"The Help," which came into the show with four nominations, more than any other film, also earned its star Viola Davis the SAG award for best actress, while Octavia Spencer was named top supporting actress. They both played maids who face discrimination in the film set in Mississippi during the 1960s.

Davis thanked another African-American actress, Cicely Tyson, who inspired her as a child and was in the audience. Davis talked of dreaming big as a child when she wanted to become an actress. She encouraged others to do so, too.

"Dream big and dream fierce," she said.

Davis also took the opportunity to remind the celebrities in attendance, including A-listers George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Meryl Streep, as well as TV audiences, that change is still necessary in current U.S. culture.

"The stain of racism and sexism is not just for people of color or women," she said. "It's all of our burden. All of us, and we can, absolutely all of us, we can inspire change."

Silent movie "The Artist" could only claim one trophy. Jean Dujardin was named best actor in a drama for his role as a fading screen star at the end of the talkies who is ultimately saved by love.

Dujardin, who beat out Clooney and Pitt in the category, seemed genuinely surprised as he held his statue and thanked SAG. Like Davis, he noted that as a kid he was always a dreamer and said his teachers called him "Jean of the moon."   Continued...

<p>The cast of "The Help" accept the award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture at the 18th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles, California January 29, 2012. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson</p>