Stars and Strike
The Awards Season Is Under a Cloud, but Hollywood Throws a Party With SAG Honors
Monday, January 28, 2008; Page C01
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 27
The three-month-old writers' strike has put next month's Academy Awards show in jeopardy, but the SAG Awards rolled out the red carpet (under a big tent, under rainy skies) and went ahead with the serious business of TV and film promotion. "Welcome to the most glamorous and exciting evening in the history of the world," says comedian Steve Carell, getting the tone just about right at the beginning of the show.
The nice thing about the SAG Awards is they clock in at two hours, with no clutter -- no trophies for cinematographers, composers, costumers. No Best Picture (though "No Country for Old Men" won the ensemble cast award, which sort of feels like a top film prize). Just Best Actors. Actors loving actors. It's like MySpace.
So Carell announces the winner for best male actor in a television drama and the winner is . . . James Gandolfini for "The Sopranos." It appears the former HBO hit is still participating in trophy shows, even though Tony and the family faded to black in a Jersey diner a long time ago. "This is our last official act as the Sopranos all together," Gandolfini promises. "It's been 10 years. It's been an honor." Then he sits down.
But there's more. The winner for best actress in a television drama goes to Edie Falco for "The Sopranos," who appears a little surprised. "Oh, my gosh," Falco says. "This is so not supposed to happen."
And finally, for best ensemble in a TV drama, the award goes to "The Sopranos," raising the question of what all those other shows are doing cluttering up the dial. Paulie Walnuts (a.k.a. Tony Sirico) stands and says: "Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. What a hell of a way to go." The entire cast has a group hug onstage, and America says ciao.
After the "Sopranos" sweep, television sets in the media room backstage go dead, which is in keeping with the whole seat-of-the-pants proceedings. In a normal year, the SAG Awards are just a blip in trophy season, but Sunday night, no surprise, the show is packed with press, who learn not to call these awards the SAGs (they don't like that).
Has the rain blown a fuse? A publicist finally appears and screams above the din, "Javier Bardem won for best actor in a supporting role!" That would be for his turn as the psychopathic assassin in "No Country for Old Men," the film whose directors, Joel and Ethan Coen, won the Directors Guild award on Saturday.
A couple more awards speed by while reporters are (literally) in the dark about the winners. Then the power returns, and to the media room comes the cast of . . . "The Sopranos." To what do they owe their success? "It's just a good show, ba-da bing!" says Sirico. They may have been the greatest ensemble ever to appear on television, but tonight, this group is out of gas. When the awards show is viewable again, we see Burt Reynolds onstage, speaking warmly, lovingly of veteran character actor Charles Durning ("The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" and "The Sting," among dozens of films), who is being given a lifetime achievement award. Following sustained applause, Durning quips, "That it?"
Tina Fey of "30 Rock," who won for best actress in a TV comedy, comes backstage and is mostly asked about the writers' strike. "I do think the issues in the strike are important, though most people at home are 'What?'" Fey explains.
Mickey Rooney, who has had a SAG card for 74 years, comes onstage to present the prize for best actress in a television movie or miniseries. "People ask me, 'Mickey, are you still working?' I'm here to open an envelope, and when you're 87, that's work," Rooney says. Ah, the award goes to Queen Latifah. This will be fun! "Miss Latifah?" Rooney begs. "Unfortunately, Miss Latifah could not be with us this evening."