LOS ANGELES - “The Help,” a big-screen drama focusing on race relations in America, was the big winner at the Screen Actors Guild awards ceremony Sunday, sweeping the top prizes for best actress, best supporting actress and best ensemble.
The film, which tells the story of an aspiring journalist who decides to write a book exposing racism faced by domestic help in the 1960s, beat black-and-white silent movie “The Artist,” “Bridesmaids,” “The Descendants” and other films that had been expected to win top honors.
The Screen Actors Guild awards are seen as one of the key preludes to the Oscars ceremony, the culmination of the Hollywood awards season, that will be held on February 26.
“It’s been such a labor of love,” said Viola Davis, the winner of the best actress award, as she reminisced about her work in “The Help.” “I just want to say that (the movie) is not just about colored people or women, it’s about all of us,” she added. “We all can inspire change, every single one of us.”
Octavia Spencer, who won the prize for best supporting actress, said the movie was “a light for women who haven’t been given a voice in American history.” “I’m thrilled to hold this honor,” she added.
Spencer outdid Argentine-born French actress Berenice Bejo, who starred in the silent film “The Artist.” The two will meet and compete again in the same category at the Oscars.
French actor Jean Dujardin was honored as the best leading actor for his role in “The Artist,” which is seen by movie critics as a favorite for winning an Oscar next month.
“It’s a love story, a simple story, but it’s not just a black-and-white and silent movie,” said the Frenchman. “It’s a new visual and emotional experience for the audience.”
Dujardin competed for the top actor’s prize against some of the biggest Hollywood names, including George Clooney (“The Descendants”), Leonardo DiCaprio (“J. Edgar”) and Brad Pitt (“Moneyball”).
Veteran Canadian actor Christopher Plummer won the award for best supporting actor. Plummer, 82, starred in “Beginners,” where he played a man who comes to terms with his homosexuality late in life.
The 18th SAG ceremony got under way in Los Angeles with a star-studded group in attendance, including Clooney, Dujardin, Meryl Streep, Michelle Williams and Pitt, who was accompanied by his companion, Angelina Jolie. In the television category, the comedy “Modern Family” won the SAG award for best cast in a comedy.
Colombian bombshell Sofia Vergara, who was nominated for her role as Gloria in “Modern Family,” walked away empty-handed as veteran Betty White, 90, took the award for her role in the comedy “Hot in Cleveland.”
“Modern Family” also took the prize for best comedy cast, defeating “Glee”, “The Big Bang Theory”, “30 Rock” and “The Office.” The work of Steve Buscemi in HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” where he plays a politician who ruled Atlantic City during the Prohibition era, was rewarded with the prize for best male actor in a drama series.
List of winners
Actor: Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Actress: Viola Davis, “The Help”
Supporting actor: Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
Supporting actress: Octavia Spencer, “The Help”
Cast: “The Help”
Stunt ensemble: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.”
Actor in a movie or miniseries: Paul Giamatti, “Too Big to Fail”
Actress in a movie or miniseries: Kate Winslet, “Mildred Pierce”
Actor in a drama series: Steve Buscemi, “Boardwalk Empire”
Actress in a drama series: Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story”
Actor in a comedy series: Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock.”
Actress in a comedy series: Betty White, “Hot in Cleveland.”
Drama series cast: “Boardwalk Empire”
Comedy series cast: “Modern Family.”
Stunt ensemble: “Game of Thrones.”