Jean Dujardin

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The "French George Clooney" was as charming as the real deal. Viola Davis was less flustered than Meryl Streep is at these things. And, surprise, surprise, Alec Baldwin was anything but tweeting mad. 

A look at the doings and sayings backstage at the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild:

Now That's an Artist: Jean Dujardin was a dashing presence. The actor put his fingers to his ears, hummed and did a little dance as a reporter pointed out how strong his Oscar chances were now that he'd won the SAG Award—and beaten Clooney, head to head. For good measure, he broke into the French national anthem.

These Things Happen When You Beat the American Clooney: At one point, Dujardin stopped himself midsentence, and called himself out for being "boring," which he wasn't being at all. "I'm sorry," he apologized, "I'm over the moon."    

But Other Than That… Dujardin, in a rare moment of semi-seriousness, did offer what it's like to be in the Oscar race (and have the hopes of your nation on you, too): "Pressure. Big pressure."  

And That Would Be Why the Movie Didn't Win Best Cast: Said Dujardin of The Artist, "The star of the movie is the movie."

And That Would Be Why the Movie Probably Will Still Win Best Picture:  Said Dujardin of The Artist: "There's a cute dog, and everybody love cute dogs."

Alec Baldwin


And, No, She Didn't Think of Herself as Having Beaten The Iron Lady: "I kind of feel that I bought some time until I suck the next time." —The Help's Viola Davis, on keeping her head on straight after having beaten Meryl Streep.

Fortunately, She's Got Time to Work Out the Kinks for Oscar Night: Davis was a composed, emphatic presence. The only things that threw her (other than the inevitable Oscar talk) were "those damn bracelets"—they slipped off her wrist, and and fell to the floor, and probably not for the first time tonight, judging by her exasperation.

So to Recap: Davis and Dujardin both seemed a tad unnerved at how close they are now Oscars, and, given the SAG Awards' recent history, they are very close.

Best Line of the Night: Baldwin, not in a rant mode at all, reported that, yes, he does still play Words With Friends. "But now on Virgin Atlantic," the noted American Airlines critic said.

Yes, He Was in a Really Good Mood: A playful Baldwin walked on and off and back on the press-conference stage just to milk applause from willing reporters.

Like a Really, Really Good Mood: You know how it seems, fairly or unfairly, that Baldwin's always one stray tweet away from quitting acting, bolting from 30 Rock or doing both at once? Not tonight. "I want season seven really badly," he said of the ratings-challenged sitcom. "I want us to come back."

Octavia Spencer

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That Thing's Gotta Be the Heaviest Actor in Hollywood: So, the first thing the 82-year-old Christopher Plummer did back here was put his award down—and not because he's 82 years old, but because nearly everybody does that, right before they complain about heavy it is. (It, the award, even has its own podium, right next to the press-conference mic.)

Just Like She's Got a Good Hold on the Oscar Race: The Help's Octavia Spencer did not put her Actor down. At least not for a while. She had a good hold on that thing.

Um, Actually, It Kinda Is a Foregone Conclusion: Spencer on her Best Supporting Actress Oscar chances: "It's not a foregone conclusion because I won this, I'm going to win that."  

Oh, That: In his acceptance speech, Plummer name-checked his wife, thanking her for saving his life. Backstage, he was asked if he could explain what she saved him from exactly. "Yes," the Beginners star replied. "I was a terrible drunk."

Jessica Lange

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We Sincerely Hope Not: "I can't talk about that," Plummer said when pushed to, well, talk about his Oscar chances. "It's miles down the road. It's at least three months, isn't it?"

Reality Check: No matter what he says, or graciously wouldn't say, the now-SAG-ratified Plummer is the Best Supporting Actor front-runner—by a lot.

Why It Sticks to Be an Actress, as Opposed to an Actor: You're Jessica Lange. You're Jessica Freakin' Lange. You're a two-time Oscar winner, a winner for the second time in as many weeks for American Horror Story, and you get asked, "What's your to-do list [for getting dressed for a show?]" (And, no, nobody asked Baldwin what his to-do list was.)

But, Yes, Lange Did Look Great: Well, she did.

As It Should Be: As they were on stage, the Modern Family kids were in the forefront backstage, too. (The show has won so many times, at so many awards shows, the cast has had a lot of practice at being gracious.)  What have they learned from their older castmates, they were asked? Reported Dunphy youngster Nolan Gould: "I learned a lot of curse words."

Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore

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Kids Will Be Kids Rotten to Each Other: Brady and Connor Noon, the young (really young) twins who share the role of Michael Pitt's son Tommy on Boardwalk Empire, had to be separated after one (or the other) bopped one (or the other) on the head during the show's press conference.

Life Imitates Hardboiled Art: Said series star (and individual SAG winner) Steve Buscemi after the Noon incident: "Welcome to the cast of Boardwalk Empire…" 

Well, the Boy Did Have a Point: Prior to the dust up, one of the Noons got feisty with Pitt, reprimanding the actor for announcing he wanted a cigarette.

His Quote's Too High: So, a bomb-sniffing dog was on the job at the Shrine today—that's not unusual. What was unusual, per the media types who'd done this drill before, was that the red carpet and the interior of the Shrine were cleared simultaneously, and only an hour before the arrivals were scheduled to begin. Before you ask, one, there were no signs of any ominous goings-on; and, two, the bomb-sniffing dog was not Uggie.

They Didn't Make It, After All: Mary Tyler Moore was the talk of the night for her Life Achievement Award, but the beloved actress didn't venture into the press-conference room. (Sometimes, honorees do; sometimes they don't. And, for what it's worth, Moore did do the photo room.) We could've asked repeat SAG winner Betty White about her longtime costar, but, like Moore, she took a pass on the mic, too.     

(Originally published Jan. 29, 2012, at 6:46 p.m. PT)

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