Their peers have spoken

/ 03:00 AM February 20, 2015
MICHAEL Keaton (left) and Edward Norton won a SAG for “Birdman.”

MICHAEL Keaton (left) and Edward Norton won a SAG for “Birdman.”

Actors love winning awards for their exceptional work, but they’re particularly proud of the trophies and citations handed out by their peers by way of the annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards. Last month, the big winners at the SAG Awards were led by the cast of “Birdman,” which romped off with the plum “ensemble” or cast award.

This honor is especially prized, because it means that all of the actors in the winning film did exceptionally well, with no single performance upstaging the rest, and all of the cast members contributing to the production’s overall thespic excellence.


It would be most instructive for local film awards to also add an “ensemble” category, to help balance the stellar fixation currently prevalent on the awards scene, where a film’s success is exclusively credited to its biggest star, despite the obvious fact that he didn’t pull it off all by his stellar lonesome!

In the SAG Awards’ individual categories, the competition was particularly stiff in the best actor category, with strong performances from Michael Keaton, Jake Gyllenhaal and Benedict Cumberbatch.


That’s why it was a big surprise—and upset—for Eddie Redmayne to win for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.”

Redmayne was the youngest finalist by far, so his victory serves notice that a new generation of fine actors is just itching to take over—unless veteran stars work harder to keep them at bay!

There was no such upset victory in the female actor category, with Julianne Moore trumping her younger cofinalists (Rosamund Pike, Felicity Jones, etc.) with her harrowing depiction of an Alzheimer’s patient in “Still Alice.” In the female lead field, at least, the veterans still rule!

Veteran actors also dominated the “supporting” categories, with J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”) and Patricia Arquette (“Boyhood”) emerging victorious. It was interesting to see, however, that younger talents like Kiera Knightley, Emma Stone and Naomi Watts also came on strong. A portrait of things to come?

Reviewing the film award finalists and winners, a consistent theme emerges: For an actor to come up with a notable and potentially award-winning portrayal, playing a key role in a biopic is a plus point. Thus, Redmayne won for “The Theory of Everything,” Benedict Cumberbatch was cited for portraying a famous code breaker in “The Imitation Game,” and Reese Witherspoon was cited for depicting a woman who walked a thousand miles to “find” herself.

It also helps a lot if the role may be fictitious but “idiosyncratically” or “uniquely” different and challenging, as in the case of the “media monster” Jake Gyllenhaal depicted in “Nightcrawler” and Michael Keaton’s astoundingly weird portrayal in “Birdman.”

A third potentially winning card to put into play is the “medical” drama, which Moore in “Still Alice” and Rosamund Pike in “Gone Girl” pushed to the psychological limit and Redmayne rode all the way to victory in “The Theory of Everything.”


So, the word’s out: Actors, think biopic, “extreme” characters and medical drama, and you’ll have the best chance of impressing the heck out of your thespic peers, come awards time!

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TAGS: Birdman, Edward Norton, Michael Keaton, Screen Actors Guild
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