Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt were once again told that their big screen performances were "As Good as It Gets" at Sunday's Screen Actors Guild awards, while "The Full Monty" surprised the crowd with an underdog win for best ensemble cast.
And it was certainly a night for NBC actors. The peacock showed its finer feathers in a majority of the categories, including best ensemble honors for the cast of "Seinfeld" and "ER." Actors in HBO and TNT telefilms dominated in the original TV movie categories.
Actors Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander and Michael Richards accepted the prize for "Seinfeld" sans fellow star Jerry Seinfeld, who they brought to the podium via a cellular phone call.
"ER" 's Noah Wyle said the SAG award was "tailor-made" for the cast of the Warner Bros. TV drama. "It's the only award given to actors from actors. It's a testament to the whole, which is really what our show is about," he said.
"ER" actors Anthony Edwards and Julianna Margulies also were honored for their individual performances.
In a shocker, the cast of "The Full Monty" won SAG's film ensemble award. The Fox Searchlight movie, which has been a surprise boxoffice hit, continued to confound, beating out such favorites as the bigger-budgeted "Good Will Hunting," "L.A. Confidential" and "Titanic."
Nicholson Talks Love
Nicholson captured the leading actor award for his performance as an obsessive writer who falls for a waitress in "As Good as It Gets."
After congratulating all the working actors in Hollywood, Nicholson's acceptance speech centered on the theme love. "This particular movie is about love and I love all that I do. Jim Brooks is a genius and mainly I love him and I've come to love Helen and Greg (Kinnear) and all the people I worked with on this movie."
Rounding out a sweep in the lead acting roles was Hunt, who took the best actress statuette for her role opposite Nicholson. Hunt, who also captured a Golden Globe for her role in the TriStar film, is now a firm favorite for the Oscar.
"I'm a 25-year member of the Screen Actors Guild, so I'm very proud to get the award--to get singled out among so many great actors."
In a first for the SAG awards, two actresses tied for the best supporting actress award. The 87-year-old actress Gloria Stuart received one award for her role as the centenarian version of the heroine Rose in the epic "Titanic."
It was the evening's most sentimental moment as the former glamorous star of the 1930s accepted her statuette following a standing ovation. "After the birth of my beautiful daughter, this is the next best thing that has ever happened to me," Stuart said.
Kim Basinger continued her own run toward an Academy Award, picking up the other best supporting actress SAG award for her performance as a high-class call girl in Warner Bros. and New Regency's "L.A. Confidential." It was the only acting nomination for the film but it was Basinger's second major prize for her work in the picture. She also received the Golden Globe.
In one of the awards' biggest surprises, Robin Williams threw the Academy Award race for best supporting actor up in the air with his victory for his work in "Good Will Hunting."
Burt Reynolds, who won the Golden Globe in this category and received numerous laurels from critics associations, previously held front-runner status for his performance in "Boogie Nights," but Williams' turn as the lonely mentor of the young genius, played by Matt Damon, captured the attention of his fellow actors.
Liz Honored for Lifetime Work
Elizabeth Taylor, still in the hospital following an injury she sustained in a fall, received the SAG lifetime achievement award for "fostering the finest ideals of the acting profession." Lauren Bacall presented the award for her work as "the actor and the humanitarian."
Gary Sinese won for playing the title role of the original cable movie "George Wallace," thanking not only the top brass at TNT--which aired the drama about the populist governor--but his fellow actors at the ceremony. "Everyone in this room has been a teacher to me," Sinese said.
Josh Chetwynd and Lynette Rice write for The Hollywood Reporter