Chicago leads Oscar race after guild awards
Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles
Tuesday March 11, 2003
Daniel Day-Lewis and Catherine Zeta-Jones both walked off a Los Angeles stage on Sunday night triumphantly carrying a statuette. They now have to wait two weeks to see if they can add a better-known statuette called Oscar to the ones they picked up at the Screen Actors' Guild awards.
Day-Lewis won the guild's best actor award for his role as the ruthless Bill Cutting in Gangs of New York. Renée Zellweger and Zeta-Jones took the best actress and best supporting actress prizes respectively for their roles as high-kicking killers in Chicago, while Christopher Walken got the nod for best supporting actor for playing Leonardo DiCaprio's father in Catch Me If You Can.
The SAG awards are often seen as a pointer to the likely winners in the Academy Awards, which are due to take place - war permitting - in Hollywood on March 23. They are decided by the 98,000-strong guild, whose members make up the largest percentage of academy voters.
Day-Lewis said in his speech that he had received inspiration for his part from watching such films as On The Waterfront, Night of the Hunter and all-night showings of Dirty Harry movies. "It was like a group of grungy guys would emerge into the half-dawn, bleary-eyed, trying to be loose-limbed and mean and taciturn," he said. His main competition for an Oscar remains Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt and Michael Caine in The Quiet American.
Chicago confirmed its status as favourite to take most awards by winning a SAG prize for best ensemble cast. "I've been doing this since I was 19," said Richard Gere, accepting the award on behalf of the cast. "I'm the old guy and I have never had such fun in my life as an actor."
The SAG awards also embrace television and here there were no great surprises, with James Gandolfini and Edie Falco winning the best acting in a drama series awards for their roles as Mr and Mrs Soprano. "Enjoy what you can now because it can get pretty weird once it works," Gandolfini said in a message to young actors. He is involved in an acrimonious dispute with the series producer, HBO, in which he is seeking to be released from his contract.
Elsewhere in the forest of awards ceremonies, the Writers Guild of America gave the prize for best adapted screenplay to David Hare for The Hours, which augurs well for him for March 23. Michael Moore, also Oscar-nominated, became the first documentary maker to win the best screenplay prize at the same cere mony for his film Bowling for Columbine.
The campaign to win the favours of the 6,000 academy members in the final stages of voting has been intense. The debate about whether Roman Polanski should be rewarded for his work as director of The Pianist or punished as a fugitive sex offender continues to rage in the letter columns of Los Angeles's newspapers. Chicago is hardening its lead as favourite film, but Miramax is spending heavily to persuade voters to give Martin Scorsese his first best director Oscar for Gangs of New York.
This year's winners
Ensemble cast Chicago
Actor Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York
Actress Renee Zellweger, Chicago
Supporting actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago
Supporting actor Christopher Walken, Catch Me If You Can
Television Ensemble cast, drama Six Feet Under
Actor, drama James Gandolfini, The Sopranos
Actress, drama Edie Falco, The Sopranos
Ensemble cast, comedy Everybody Loves Raymond
Actor, comedy Sean Hayes, Will & Grace
Actress, comedy Megan Mullally, Will & Grace
Actor, movie or mini-series William H Macy, Door to Door
Actress, movie or mini-series Stockard Channing, The Matthew Shepard Story
Lifetime achievement Clint Eastwood
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