LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - “No Country For Old Men,” Ethan and Joel Coen’s 20th-century take on the western, won top prize at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, positioning the movie for glory at the Oscars next month.
The Screen Actors Guild gave “No Country For Old Men” its top prize — best cast ensemble — shutting out actor Sean Penn’s directorial wilderness drama “Into The Wild,” which had the most nominations going into Sunday’s ceremony.
Penn’s movie came away empty handed.
In addition to the ensemble nod, Spanish actor Javier Bardem won a second trophy for “No Country for Old Men” by taking the best supporting actor award on a night of traditional Hollywood glamour, with added emotion over the death last week of actor Heath Ledger.
British actor Daniel Day-Lewis, who won the best actor award for his role as a greedy oil baron in “There Will Be Blood,” dedicated his trophy to Ledger.
Day-Lewis, 50, said he had never met Ledger, 28, best known for his role as a reluctant gay cowboy in “Brokeback Mountain.” But he paid tribute to Ledger in his acceptance speech and later told reporters: “That’s all I have been thinking about the last few days.”
“I am absolutely certain he would have done many wonderful things in his life,” Day-Lewis said.
British actress Julie Christie, 66, won the best actress award for playing a woman with Alzheimer’s disease in “Away From Her.” Christie is also heavily tipped for an Oscar.
Actors make up the biggest group of the 6,000 Academy Award voters, giving “No Country” strong momentum in what had been a wide open race for best picture at the February 24 Oscars. “No Country” also won the Directors Guild Award on Saturday.
The traditional Oscar ceremony has been under threat from a bitter three-month strike by Hollywood screenwriters seeking improved payments from television and movie studios for work distributed over the Internet.
But hopes of a settlement have risen since the two sides resumed talks last week.
“I feel optimistic. At least they have started talking to us, which is a good sign,” said Tina Fey, who won a best actress award for her comedy “30 Rock.”
“It’s nice to be dressed up and not picketing,” Fey added.
Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, Eva Longoria and Cate Blanchett provided some much-missed star power on the red carpet at the SAG event after actors boycotted the Golden Globes and People’s Choice Awards earlier this month in support of the striking writers.
“The entire town has been going through a very difficult time. So to be able to celebrate something is a wonderful thing,” former “Will & Grace” star Debra Messing told Reuters.
The Writers Guild of America allowed its members to write for the SAG show and did not protest outside because actors have been strong allies of the writers.
SAG’s best supporting actress award went to veteran Ruby Dee for her role in “American Gangster.”
In SAG’s television awards, the mob drama “The Sopranos” swept the board, taking the trophy for best cast in a TV drama and the best actor and actress awards for James Gandolfini and Edie Falco in an emotional finish to the series that ended in June.
Fey and “30 Rock” co-star Alec Baldwin won for best actress and actor in a TV comedy. “The Office” won for best television comedy cast ensemble.