Screen Actors Guild Awards: A Hollywood Tradition

Kyle Elphick

On January 27, 2013, the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards were held in Los Angeles, California, honoring the work of actors and actresses from the year 2012.  Though not as popular as award ceremonies like the Golden Globes or the Oscars, the SAG Awards, as they are most often known, serve a unique purpose in the glittery landscape of Hollywood.

The SAG Awards are the product of the SAG-AFTRA labor union, which represents the interests of over 160,000 actors and performers from around the world.  Since 1995, the union has held an award show celebrating the performances of its members, and through the years it has become one of largest and most celebrated events of the film and television year.  Actors and actresses are nominated through the votes of a randomly selected group of 4,200 members of the union, while all of its members vote to decide upon the final winners.  These winners receive a prestigious trophy known as “The Actor,” a solid bronze male statuette holding a mask of comedy in one hand and a mask of tragedy in the other, serving as a simple yet effective symbol of the work the SAG-AFTRA union intends to promote through its award ceremony. The SAG Awards have gained even more media and public attention in the past few years.   The majority of film actors and actresses that won their category in this historic union’s award show went on to win Hollywood’s greatest prize–the Academy Award.

The first of the categories of the SAG Awards is for the performances of actors and actresses in a TV film or miniseries.  Kevin Costner, of the History Channel’s 3 part miniseries “Hatfields and McCoys,” took the Best Actor award in said category for his performance as William Anderson Hatfield, while Julianne Moore won the counterpart Best Actress award for her performance as Sarah Palin in the HBO television movie “Game Change.”

The awards next category deals with the performances of actors and actresses involved in television programs.  Taking home “The Actor” trophy for its stunt ensemble was the HBO hit “Game of Thrones.”  Both the awards for Best Actor and Best Actress in a comedy series went to the two leads of NBC’s “30 Rock,” Alec Baldwin (as Jack Donaghy) and Tina Fey (as Liz Lemon).  As for television dramas, Claire Danes won Best Actress for her performance as Carrie Mathison in the smash hit “Homeland,” while Bryan Cranston took Best Actor for his now iconic portrayal of the methamphetamine dealing ex-high school chemistry teacher Walter White in “Breaking Bad.”  As for the awards for television ensemble casts, “Modern Family” took home top honors in the comedy category while “Downton Abbey” won the same award in the field of television drama.

The SAG Awards’ final category honors the work of actors and actresses in films.  The new James Bond film “Skyfall” was honored for the performances of its stunt ensemble.  Anne Hathaway walked away with a Best Supporting Actress award for her completely singing performance as Fantine in the musical film “Les Miserables.”  Tommy Lee Jones was awarded for his supporting actor work as Thaddeus Stevens in Stephen Spielberg’s historical biopic, “Lincoln.”  Though known more widely for her work as Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games,” Jennifer Lawrence took home the ceremony’s top honor for a leading actress in a film for her performance as Tiffany Maxwell in “Silver Lining’s Playbook.”  And, as anyone could have guessed, Daniel Day Lewis won Best Actor for his incredible performance as the 16th president of the United States in “Lincoln.” Outside of the awards for the performances of the past year, the Screen Actors Guild 49th Annual Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Dick Van Dyke.

The SAG Awards are always an exceptional celebration of the art of acting, honoring the best and brightest of what screened media has to offer for their incredible work.  The awards stand as the only popular award show in which actors and actresses vote for their peers.  And in truth, who is better to judge the fine craft of acting than those who do it as their life’s work?