Crime paid at the Screen Actors Guild Awards today, as the musical "Chicago" and lead actress Renee Zellweger proved that a murderess can become a celebrity, and Daniel Day-Lewis won for playing a 19th-century thug in "Gangs of New York."
"Chicago" collected the ensemble cast award, the guild's equivalent of a best-picture prize. "From Day One we were a family," said Richard Gere, who lost in the lead actor class, but made the acceptance speech for his cast mates. "There was such love in this production."
Zellweger said she was astounded to win her award over her competitors, including Nicole Kidman for "The Hours" and Julianne Moore for "Far From Heaven."
"When you start out, you kind of hope that you'll get enough work so you don't have to schlep the longnecks anymore," she said, referring to her stint as a waitress.
"But I never imagined that I would be standing here tonight in such esteemed company."
"Chicago" co-star Catherine Zeta-Jones claimed the supporting actress award for playing a jazz-singing murderess whose fame has waned, and Christopher Walken won for playing the father of a con artist in "Catch Me if You Can."
The Screen Actors Guild Awards are the last of Hollywood's major self-congratulatory events before the Oscars on March 23, where "Chicago" also leads nominees with 13 bids, including Best Picture. All of tonight's film winners are up for Oscars.
James Gandolfini and Edie Falco won their second guild awards for their starring roles in HBO's gangster drama "The Sopranos," after previously winning dramatic TV performance honors in 2000. However, the show lost the TV dramatic ensemble prize to HBO's "Six Feet Under," about a California family and their funeral home.
The TV comedy ensemble winner was CBS's "Everybody Loves Raymond." For a second consecutive year, TV comedy performer trophies went to co-stars Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes of NBC's "Will & Grace."
The program for the show, televised live on TNT, also featured a lifetime achievement award for Clint Eastwood.