It may have been dark on Broadway last night, but the spirit of the theater was lit up in Los Angeles, where the Screen Actors Guild gave three of its five 2002 movie awards to Rob Marshall's adaptation of the stage musical "Chicago."
Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones, known throughout the movie's electric two-hour running time as Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, were named Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. They were later joined on stage by the rest of the "Chicago" cast as the film won for Best Movie Ensemble.
The other SAG winners for features were Daniel Day-Lewis, named outstanding male lead for his role as the aptly named Bill the Butcher in Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York," and Christopher Walken, as a luckless dreamer who lives a vicarious adventure through his larcenous son in Steven Spielberg's "Catch Me If You Can."
In their young eight-year history, the SAG awards - known as Actors - have a spotty record of forecasting Oscars.
Fewer than 50% of SAG winners have gone on to claim matching Academy Awards. And only one winner in each of the last two years made it a double.
But the domination of "Chicago" among actors, who form the largest branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, suggests a greater momentum than most analysts thought.
Zeta-Jones is considered a near shoo-in for the Oscar, but Zellweger picked up an award last night that most handicappers thought would go to Nicole Kidman for "The Hours."
Kidman may still be regarded as the Oscar front-runner, for her work as the troubled author Virginia Woolf. The same can be said for Chris Cooper, whose performance as an eccentric, toothless orchid thief in Spike Jonze's "Adaptation" won most critics' awards and made him a favorite for Oscar's best supporting actor.
Zellweger isn't the only "Chicago" principal to have pulled off a seeming upset for a major award. A week ago, Marshall won the top prize from the Directors Guild of America, a group that really has been a harbinger for the Oscars. Most handicappers figured that award would go to either Scorsese or Roman Polanski for "The Pianist."
The Academy Awards will be presented in Los Angeles March 23.
Originally published on March 10, 2003