LOS ANGELES: The newspaper drama Spotlight, badly in need of some Oscar momentum, took the top honor at the 22nd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.
The ensemble award had seemingly come down to Spotlight or — the film with the wind at its back — Adam McKay’s high finance tale The Big Short, which last week took the Producers Guild’s top award.
Best actor went to Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant, adding to the drum beat expected to culminate with the 41-year-old star’s first Oscar.
Other favorites cemented their front-runner status, as well.
Brie Larson, the star of the captive mother-son daughter drama Room, won best actress. Alicia Vikander took best supporting actress for The Danish Girl.
But supporting actor went to Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation. Elba was one of the most notable black actors overlooked by the Academy Awards, which instead fielded all-white acting nominees.
Amid continuing uproar over diversity in Academy Award nominees, the SAG Awards offered a stark antidote to the rancor that has characterized Hollywood’s awards season. Awards were handed out to Queen Latifah, Uzo Aduba, Viola Davis and Elba (twice), as the screen actors cast a loud vote in favor of diversity on big and small screens.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to diverse TV,” said Elba in his third trip on stage as a presenter, following wins for his supporting performance in the Netflix child soldier drama Beasts of No Nation and his lead performance in the BBC miniseries Luther.
Elba made no direct reference to the crisis that has swept through Hollywood in the last two weeks, but it was on the minds and tongues of seemingly everyone in Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium on Saturday night.
Accepting the ensemble award for Orange Is the New Black, co-star Laura Prepon gestured to the cast of the prison comedy standing behind her.
“Look at this stage,” said Prepon. “This is what we talk about when we talk about diversity.”
Latifah gave one of the evening’s most stirring speeches while accepting the award for most outstanding female performance in a TV movie or miniseries for HBO’s Bessie Smith tale Bessie.
“I hope that anyone out there who does not come in the package that people say you should, keep fighting for it,” said Latifah.
Aduba, accepting her second straight SAG Award for best actress in a comedy in Orange Is the New Black, praised creator Jenji Kohan for making “a show that reflects and represents so many people.”
Best actor in a TV comedy went to Jeffrey Tambor for the acclaimed Amazon series Transparent.
The great comedian Carol Burnett accepted the SAG lifetime achievement award from presenters Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.