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SAG Honors Benigni, Paltrow

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(BPI) LOS ANGELES‹Life was beautiful for Roberto Benigni and Gwyneth Paltrow on Sunday as they emerged big winners during the fifth annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Their wins also marked a victory for Miramax, which carried off several key trophies: best actor for Benigni's "Life Is Beautiful" as well as best actress for Paltrow and best cast performance, both for "Shakespeare in Love," at Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium.

NBC sewed up the dramatic television categories with wins for "ER" and "Law & Order," but the TV comedy trophies were shared by HBO, Fox, and ABC.

Benigni's victory for "Life Is Beautiful," which he wrote and directed, made him the first actor to win a SAG trophy for a foreign-language performance.

As the nascent awards show has become a bellwether for the Academy Awards race, Benigni's win moved him considerably closer to triumph at this month's Oscars.

"Every organ of my body is moving in a very bad way," Benigni said during an uproarious acceptance speech after embracing presenter Helen Hunt and twirling her in the air. "Joy delights joy, and exuberance is beautiful. ... Thank you to Harvey Weinstein and everybody at Miramax, where we make love together."

Benigni said winning the award was tinged with sadness, however, as it came following the death of director Stanley Kubrick, whom Benigni called "a genius of our century."

"Kubrick belongs to everyone, like Fellini, like Kafka," Benigni said.

Paltrow is also on track for a best actress Oscar win, but she downplayed the likelihood of continuing her winning streak.

Asked whether she was thinking about adding an Oscar to her previous wins, Paltrow said, "No, and please don't make me."

Kathy Bates threw the Academy Award race for best supporting actress up in the air with her victory for "Primary Colors." Vanessa Redgrave, who won the Golden Globe in the category and received accolades from critics, previously held front-runner status for her performance in "Gods and Monsters."

The best supporting actor category is also neck-and-neck as Robert Duvall picked up the SAG statuette for "A Civil Action." At the Oscars, he will oppose Ed Harris, who won the Golden Globe in the category for "The Truman Show" but was not nominated by his peers for a SAG trophy.

NBC dramas were well represented.

"ER" chalked up its fourth consecutive win in the ensemble drama category, beating fellow NBC series "Law & Order," ABC's "NYPD Blue" and "The Practice," and Fox's "The X-Files."

The top-rated hospital drama also generated an award for Julianna Margulies, named best actress in a drama. "Law & Order"'s Sam Waterston took the corresponding best actor trophy.

But NBC did not find favor with SAG voters in the TV comedy categories despite being well-represented by the casts of shows such as "Frasier," "Friends," "Seinfeld," and "Caroline in the City."

Instead, Michael J. Fox collected his first SAG statuette for his role on ABC's "Spin City," while Tracey Ullman was honored for her "Tracey Takes On ..." series on HBO, and the cast of Fox's "Ally McBeal" was named best comedy ensemble.

Angelina Jolie earned a statuette for her performance in HBO's "Gia," perpetuating cable's pre-eminence in longform categories at awards shows. But Christopher Reeve defied the trend, winning for his role in ABC's remake of Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window."

During a moment of irony on stage, SAG president Richard Masur acknowledged the contribution of the American Federation of Television & Radio Actors, which engaged in a hotly contested but unsuccessful merger bid with SAG during the past year.

"I want to say a final thank you to AFTRA, under whose contract tonight's show is being made," Masur said.

Jonathan Davies & Zorianna Kit/THR

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