There's a new king in town.
The King's Speech was recognized for Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture tonight at the 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Award, a royal coup that sent The Social Network home with no wins for the first time in the Facebook era.
Winning SAG's top prize isn't necessarily a harbinger of an Oscar win (see: Inglourious Basterds), but combine it with momentum from a Producers Guild of America Award honor and last night's Directors Guild win for Tom Hooper and... there may be a changing of the guard next month!
"It shouldn't be called the SAG Award, it should be called the uplifting award," joked castmember Geoffrey Rush.
The illustrious production also allowed Colin Firth do what he does best tonight—not act, but accept!
"If there's a trophy which has told me something's really happening for me it was my SAG card," the charming Brit said in accepting for Outstanding Male Actor in a Leading Role. "To be a part of this extraordinary collective, if you're growing up in England, it's not something you expect to see in your wallet. It has this glow. I used to flash it around, hoping it would get me female attention, entry to nightclubs and top-level government departments.
"It didn't, but now I've got this"
Natalie Portman's best year ever (knock wood) continued with a win for Outstanding Female Actor in a Leading Role (everyone is an Actor at the SAG Awards!), and this time she stuck to the subject matter at hand, only thanking fiancé Benjamin Millepied rather than informing everybody how much he wanted ot sleep with her while making Black Swan.
"I've been working since I was 11 years old and SAG has taken care of me, made sure that I wasn't working too long, and made usre I got my education while I was working," Portman said. "I'm so grateful to have this union protecting me everyday."
Christian Bale, a bit less hairy on this occasion, was a sure thing for Outstanding Male Actor in a Supporting Role and the latest installment in his ongoing acceptance speech/lecture series included a treatise on how to find success as an actor.
"Bumping into Mark Wahlberg ain't bad," he also, also attributing a great support system and an endless fascination with people. He was also surprised onstage by the real Dickie Eklund, the addict ex-boxer he played so beautifully in The Fighter.
Melissa Leo put another notch in her belt, winning Outstanding Female Actor in a Supporting Role for playing a nor'easter of a mama grizzly in The Fighter, and choosing the moment to plead with her fellow actors for unity when it comes time for the guild to cut a new deal.
"If we're talking about joining together and making the voice of the working actor stronger, then let's join together," she said. "I'm sorry to get political...but unions made this country great because it gave a voice to the working people."
"Wrap it up," responded the teleprompter.
The SAG Awards itself is decidedly lower key than the Golden Globes (a few men eschewed ties, Helena Bonham Carter wore matching shoes, etc.), and many prefer the SAGs to other award shows because it "comes from their fellow actors."
Well, the makers of The Social Network don't, but take Betty White, for instance!
"I cannot believe this," the Hot in Cleveland (and everywhere, really) star said after beating out Edie Falco, Tina Fey, Sofia Vergara and the seemingly unstoppable Jane Lynch for Oustanding Female Actor in a Comedy Series.
"I am so lucky to, at 89, be working with you. You didn't applaud when I turned 40," White said, to much laughter. "I'm working on the happiest set, I think, in the business...We can't wait to go to work every day. But to have this happen, on top of everything else, I can't say thank you enough."
"Oooh," she said, pretending to get sidetracked while she gave her actor statue a loving stroke. Well, we think she was pretending.
The cast of Boardwalk Empire was named Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama Series and Modern Family took back the podium from Glee for Ensemble in a Comedy Series.
"This was one that I think we all wanted," Ed O'Neil said in thanks, speaking on behalf of the massive cast. "This show is set up for an ensemble and we're having a ball doing it."
Alec Baldwin scooped up his fifth consecutive SAG Award for Outstanding Male Actor in a Comedy Series for playing the irrepressibly debonair and ridiculous Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock
His Prohibition-era show having already successfully run the Mad Men blockade, Steve Buscemi repeated his success at the Globes with a win for Outstanding Male Actor in a Drama Series for Boardwalk Empire, another long-deserved honor for the quirky scene-stealer.
"Wow, I was given an award by Alec and Betty White," he said upon accepting the first award of the night, and the first of a leading four for HBO.
Al Pacino and Claire Danes made it an Emmy-Globe-SAG sweep for their respective roles in the HBO movies You Don't Know Jack and Temple Grandin. Pacino wasn't in the house tonight to accept for Outstanding Male Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries, but Danes once again grandly thanked hubby Hugh Dancy, continuing to make up for accidentally skipping him in her Emmy speech.
Julianna Margulies won her second straight statue for Outstanding Female Actor in a Drama Series for The Good Wife, thankingeveryone from the lighting and costume crews to the "Teamsters who have been digging us out of the snow for the past two weeks" in New York to her in-laws, for producing her husband, Keith Lieberthal.
The annual lifetime achievement award went to 94-year-old Ernest Borgnine, who most recently appeared in Red, his 164th film. The still-cranking nonagenarian won an Oscar in 1956 for Marty.
(Originally published Jan. 30, 2011, at 7:15 p.m. PT)