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‘Slave’, ‘Butler’ lead SAG nominees Nominations underscore big year for race-themed films

LOS ANGELES, Dec 12, (Agencies): The actors who portrayed the brutality of American slavery in the film “12 Years a Slave” won the most nominations for Screen Actors Guild awards on Wednesday, giving the movie momentum in the run-up to the industry’s top awards, the Oscars.
“12 Years a Slave,” based on the real-life story of Solomon Northup, garnered nominations in four of SAG’s five film categories, including the organization’s top award, best ensemble cast. British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays the free black man sold into slavery on Louisiana plantations, was nominated for best actor.
And in another endorsement of film on American black history, the Hollywood actors group revived the awards fortunes of the civil rights drama “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” nominating it for best ensemble cast and Forest Whitaker as the White House butler and Oprah Winfrey as his troubled wife in best actor and best supporting actress categories.
Rounding out the best ensemble cast category — a key indicator for the Oscar best picture — were family dysfunction drama “August: Osage County,” AIDS treatment tale “Dallas Buyers Club,” which also landed a total of three nominations, and the 1970s con-artist drama “American Hustle,” which earned two.

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards are a key indicator during Hollywood’s busy awards season that culminates with the Academy Awards, which will be handed out in March, because actors make up one of the largest voting groups for the Oscars. Winners of SAG awards will be announced in a ceremony in Los Angeles on Jan 18.
The SAG nominations underscored the big year for black and race-themed films and for black filmmakers like Lee Daniels and Steve McQueen, the British director of “12 Years a Slave.”
“Perhaps they’ve come about because with a black president in the White House, it’s somehow easier to talk about these subjects than it was before,” said Scott Foundas, chief film critic at Variety.
The nominations also reflected a predilection for intimate films made with small budgets. “Dallas Buyers Club,” starring Matthew McConaughey as a straight rodeo cowboy fighting for access to AIDS treatment, was made for a mere $5 million, while “12 Years a Slave” came in under $20 million. That contrasts with blockbuster action films that often cost over $100 million.
Although “12 Years a Slave” from Fox Searchlight Pictures won the top prize at the Toronto International Film Festival, it had failed to win the best picture prizes from the top critics’ groups, which favored “American Hustle,” the space thriller “Gravity” and the quirky computer-age romance “Her.”
“I’m very excited for my dedicated actors who worked so hard to bring the story of Solomon Northup to the screen,” said McQueen. “They gave their heart and soul for this picture.”
Michael Fassbender and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o were nominated in the best supporting categories for their roles as the evil slave master Edwin Epps and the slave girl Patsey who he loves.
SAG members also threw their weight behind the performances of veteran actresses and nominated five for best actress who have all won Oscars.
Judi Dench, the oldest in the category at 79, was nominated for her role as the elderly Irish mother seeking the son taken from her when she was a teenager in “Philomena,” while Meryl Streep was recognized for her turn as a bitter family matriarch in “August: Osage County,” the film adaptation of an acclaimed Broadway play.
Cate Blanchett, the youngest at 44, was nominated for her lead role as a socialite fallen on hard times in director Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine,” while Sandra Bullock received a nod for her turn as an astronaut tumbling through space in “Gravity.” Emma Thompson rounded out the list as the embittered “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers in “Saving Mr Banks.”
Joining Ejiofor and Whitaker in the best actor category were McConaughey for “Dallas Buyers Club,” veteran Bruce Dern, for his role as a crotchety old man who thinks he has won the sweepstakes in “Nebraska,” and Tom Hanks as the ship captain in Somali pirate thriller “Captain Phillips.”
In the best supporting actor category, Jared Leto earned a nomination for his role as a transgender woman in “Dallas Buyers Club,” a film for which both he and McConaughey had to lose a lot of weight.
“I had not made a film in almost six years,” said Leto. “To return to the screen with this love and support is absolutely insane and amazing.”
Also nominated in the best supporting actor category is James Gandolfini, who died of a heart attack in June and received a posthumous nod for his role in independent relationship comedy “Enough Said.”
Alongside Winfrey in the best supporting actress category was last year’s best actress Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence, nominated for her role as a loopy wife in “American Hustle.”
Following are nominees in key film and television categories:
n Best Ensemble Cast
“12 Years a Slave”; “American Hustle”; “August: Osage County”; “Dallas Buyers Club”; “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”
n Best Actor
Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”; Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”; Tom Hanks, “Captain Phillips”; Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”; Forest Whitaker, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”
n Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”; Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”; Judi Dench, “Philomena”; Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”; Emma Thompson, “Saving Mr. Banks”
n Best Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”; Daniel Bruhl, “Rush”; Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”; James Gandolfini, “Enough Said”; Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
n Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”; Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”; Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”; June Squibb, “Nebraska”; Oprah Winfrey, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”
n Best Ensemble Cast, Drama
“Boardwalk Empire” (HBO; “Breaking Bad” (AMC); “Downton Abbey” (PBS); “Game of Thrones” (HBO); “Homeland” (Showtime)
n Best Actor, Drama
Steve Buscemi, “Boardwalk Empire”; Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad”; Jeff Daniels, “The Newsroom”; Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones”; Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”
n Best Actress, Drama
Claire Danes, “Homeland”; Anna Gunn, “Breaking Bad”; Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story: Coven”; Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey”; Kerry Washington, “Scandal”
n Best Ensemble Cast, Comedy
“30 Rock” (NBC); “Arrested Development” (Netflix); “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS); “Modern Family” (ABC); “Veep” (HBO)
n Best Actor, Comedy
Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock”; Jason Bateman, “Arrested Development”; Ty Burrell, “Modern Family”; Don Cheadle, “House of Lies”; Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory”
n Best Actress, Comedy
Mayim Bialik, “The Big Bang Theory”; Tina Fey, “30 Rock”; Julie Bowen, “Modern Family”; Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie”; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”
n Best Actor, Television Movie/Miniseries
Matt Damon, “Behind the Candelabra”; Michael Douglas, “Behind the Candelabra”; Jeremy Irons, “The Hollow Crown”; Rob Lowe, “Killing Kennedy”; Al Pacino, “Phil Spector”
n Best Actress, Television Movie/Miniseries
Angela Bassett, “Betty & Coretta”; Helena Bonham Carter, “Burton and Taylor”; Holly Hunter, “Top of the Lake”; Helen Mirren, “Phil Spector”; Elisabeth Moss, “Top of the Lake”.
John Wells’ dysfunctional family adaptation “August: Osage County,” which hits theaters Dec 25 and features an all-star cast including Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, also picked up awards-season momentum with three nominations, including outstanding performance for the cast.
The SAG nominations are one of Hollywood’s first major announcements on the long road to the March 2 Oscars. Also key are the Golden Globe nominations, which was to be revealed Thursday morning.
Robert Redford, as a resourceful sailor in “All is Lost,” was also snubbed, as was Ryan Coogler’s numbing injustice tale “Fruitvale Station” and the film’s lead actor, Michael B. Jordan.
“Osage County” had individual nominations for Streep for female lead as the conflicted matriarch in the adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize and Tony-winning play, and Roberts for supporting female actor as the domineering daughter.

June Squibb, as a spitfire in Alexander Payne’s small-town comedy “Nebraska,” and Oprah Winfrey, as the bold Gloria Gaines in “The Butler,” also received supporting role nominations.
“New Girl” star Zooey Deschanel, Mindy Kaling of “The Mindy Project” and “Louie” creator and star Louis C.K. were all snubbed on nominations in the comedy

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