By DAVID GERMAIN
The Associated Press
Thursday, January 4, 2007; 8:26 PM
LOS ANGELES -- The ensemble drama "Babel," the musical "Dreamgirls" and the road-trip tale "Little Miss Sunshine" each earned three nominations Thursday for the Screen Actors Guild Awards, while Leonardo DiCaprio and Helen Mirren both had two nominations.
Mirren was nominated for playing both of England's two Queen Elizabeths, as best actress in a film as the current monarch in "The Queen" and as best actress in a TV movie or miniseries for playing her predecessor in "Elizabeth I."
The TV role earned Mirren an Emmy last fall, while she is considered the favorite to win the best-actress Oscar for "The Queen."
DiCaprio had a lead-actor film nomination as a mercenary hunting a rare gem in the African adventure "Blood Diamond" and a supporting-actor nomination as a cop undercover in a Boston crime gang in "The Departed."
At the upcoming Golden Globes, DiCaprio was nominated as lead actor for both films, but under SAG rules, he was entered in different categories. Oscar voters are free to cast ballots for actors in lead or supporting categories.
"Dreamgirls" grabbed supporting nominations for Eddie Murphy as a soul singer and Jennifer Hudson as a vocal powerhouse booted out of a Supremes-like trio. The film also had a slot in the guild's category for best overall acting ensemble, which includes Jamie Foxx and Beyonce Knowles, who were shut out in the lead-acting nominations.
The other ensemble nominees were "Babel," the Robert Kennedy drama "Bobby," "The Departed" and "Little Miss Sunshine."
Key cast members from some of those films _ among them Jack Nicholson and Matt Damon of "The Departed," Brad Pitt of "Babel," and Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette and Steve Carell of "Little Miss Sunshine" _ were overlooked for nominations.
Carell did score a TV nomination as best actor in a comedy series for "The Office," which also was among nominees for best comedy ensemble.
Another notable snub was Sacha Baron Cohen, who has a Golden Globe nomination as best actor for a comedy or musical for the hit comedy "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" but was not among guild picks.
Cohen's Oscar-nomination prospects for the outrageous role as a crass, clueless Kazakh journalist remain fuzzy. Oscar voters tend to favor heavyweight dramatic performances over comic turns.
Along with Mirren, other likely Oscar favorites and nominees dominated the guild choices, including Forest Whitaker as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland" and Peter O'Toole as an aging actor whose lecherous ways are revived by a young woman in "Venus."
The guild also had some surprise nominees, including Ryan Gosling for lead actor as a teacher with a drug problem in the acclaimed but little-seen drama "Half Nelson" and child actor Abigail Breslin for supporting actress as a 7-year-old obsessed with competing in beauty pageants in "Little Miss Sunshine."
Will Smith rounded out the lead-actor field as a homeless dad in "The Pursuit of Happyness."
Joining Mirren for lead-actress nominations were Penelope Cruz as a woman with bizarre family crises in "Volver"; Judi Dench as a scheming teacher in "Notes on a Scandal"; Meryl Streep as the boss from hell in "The Devil Wears Prada"; and Kate Winslet as a woman having an affair with a neighbor in "Little Children."
"Babel" also had supporting-actress nominations for Adriana Barraza as a nanny in peril and Rinko Kikuchi as a deaf schoolgirl. "Little Miss Sunshine" also earned a nomination for Alan Arkin as a foul-mouthed, heroin-snorting grandfather.
The guild picks are one of the last major announcements in Hollywood awards season before Academy Awards nominations come out Jan. 23. The Oscars will be presented Feb. 25.
Actors guild winners often go on to win Oscars, including three SAG winners from last year: lead performers Philip Seymour Hoffman for "Capote" and Reese Witherspoon for "Walk the Line," and supporting actress Rachel Weisz for "The Constant Gardener."
Last year's winner for the guild's prize for the overall acting ensemble, "Crash," also went on to the win the best-picture Oscar.
Awards will be presented Jan. 28 in a ceremony televised on TNT and TBS. Film and TV nominees were chosen by two groups of 2,100 people randomly chosen from the guild's 120,000 members. The guild's full membership is eligible to vote for winners.
On the Net:
Screen Actors Guild: http://www.sagawards.org