Actors typically don't want to be typecast. But apparently they don't mind a little repetition.
At points it seemed as if the 15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards was following the same script as a certain spherically themed film- and television-honoring awards show that took place two weeks ago, but tonight's ceremony did feature a few variations—despite the fact that Slumdog Millionaire, Heath Ledger, Kate Winslet, Mad Men and 30 Rock still won a whole new slew of shiny trophies.
As Slumdog Millionaire continued to bust out of its little-film-that-could shell by winning the evening's final award, Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, Ledger and Winslet racked up more supporting-actor ammo heading into next month's Academy Awards.
Winslet was honored again for her role as a former concentration camp guard who has a lusty affair with a teenager in The Reader (a role for which she's competing in the Best Actress Oscar race), while Ledger seemingly cemented his Oscar-frontrunner status for his still-resonating performance in The Dark Knight.
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"It is a great honor to be asked to accept this on behalf of Heath," said costar Gary Oldman. "He was an extraordinary young man with an extraordinary talent, and it is wonderful that you have acknowledged that and honored that talent tonight. On behalf of Heath, his family and his family on The Dark Knight, I thank you."
But Winslet couldn't make it a double Sunday because it was the grande dame of nights such as these, Meryl Streep, who won for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role for her turn as a relentless nun in Doubt.
"I didn't even buy a dress!" a breathless Streep exclaimed. "I'm really, really, really shocked! And even though awards mean nothing to me anymore, I'm really happy.
"Can I just say, there is no such thing as the best actress," she continued. "There is no such thing as the greatest living actress. I am in a position where I have secret information—that I know this to be true. I am so in awe of the work of the women this year, nominated, not nominated. So proud of us girls!"
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Taking some of the wind out of Mickey Rourke's sprint to Oscar, meanwhile, was Milk star Sean Penn, who took home the Lead Actor prize for his portrayal of pioneering gay politico Harvey Milk.
"Thank you, and good evening, comrades," Penn began. "That was for O'Reilly." (Bill, we presume.)
As for the rest...lots of déjà vu.
Tina Fey and her merry band of 30 Rockers continued to feel the love this awards season. The NBC sitcom snagged its first win for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a TV Comedy, as well as Fey's second straight win for Lead Female Actor in a Comedy and Alec Baldwin's third consecutive victory in the Lead Male category.
"I don't know who I want to make out with more tonight, [Anthony] Hopkins or Diane Lane—Tony looks so good!" joked Baldwin before going on to thank his fellow castmembers.
Fey, meanwhile, dedicated her win to her young daughter, Alice, and Jane Krakowski did the honors when 30 Rock won SAG's equivalent of a best comedy series award.
"A great ensemble should be better than the sum of its parts, and that is definitely the case here because some of these people are just weirdos we picked up off the street," Krakowski said, pointedly adding, "Jack McBrayer," under her facetious breath.
John Adams' first couple, Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney, also relived their Golden Globes glory, sweeping the performance categories for acting in a TV movie or miniseries.
Not that the members of SAG agreed with the Hollywood Foreign Press about everything. The cast of Mad Men was singled out for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, while House cornerstone Hugh Laurie notched his second consecutive SAG win for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series.
"I fancied I knew instantly that this was an extraordinary character that could go the distance," Laurie said. "That was a complete lie. I had no idea, and this is absolutely amazing to me now to look back."
And while the good doc is known to thank those members of the crew who are often overlooked come awards season, Laurie gave a shout-out this time to the couple who run the set's craft services table, the purveyors of the "finest cheesy eggs this side of the Rio Grande."
Seven-time nominee Sally Field then won her first ever SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama for playing Brothers & Sisters matriarch Nora Walker.
"I've been an actor for 45 years," said the reliably long-winded Field. "I am so proud to be an actor and so proud that my fellow actors would give me this. We inspire, we provoke, we entertain, and never before has that been so needed in the country than it is right now."
Also quite proud of his profession was James Earl Jones, the recipient of this year's Life Achievement Award.
"I don't mean to embarrass anybody by comparing the actor to God," the sonorous thesp began, "but once we've taken a role, we have a similar responsibility, to breathe life into that character, and only the actor can do that."
And to his fellow actors: "I love the work you do, sometimes it simply knocks me out. In this gathering of gifted artists, I'd like to raise a salute. Paul Newman, somebody down here likes you."