‘CODA’ Takes Top Honors at SAG Awards; Will Smith wins | Movies

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JAKE COYLE Associated Press

In an upheaval, the deaf family drama “CODA” took top honors in an unpredictable and historic event 28th Screen Actors Guild Awards which also saw wins for “Squid Game” leads, the cast of “Ted Lasso” and Will Smith.

The ceremony, held Sunday at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif., and broadcast on both TNT and TBS, notably crossed borders, with historic wins for deaf actors, Korean stars and some of the biggest names in Hollywood. It culminated with “CODA,” Sian Heder’s heartwarming coming-of-age flick on Apple TV+ starring a trio of deaf actors in Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur, and Daniel Durant, plus newcomer Emilia Jones, winner of best ensemble. The film has been seen as a watershed moment for the deaf community in Hollywood.

“It validates that we Deaf actors can work like anyone else. We look forward to more opportunities for deaf actors,” Matlin said onstage before teaching the crowd sign language for “I Love You.”

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Matlin is the only deaf actor to win an Oscar, but his “CODA” co-star, Kotsur, can be online to join her. Kotsur won Best Supporting Actor on Sunday, becoming the first deaf actor to win an individual SAG award. Upon reading his name, the 53-year-old veteran actor buried his head in his hands. Onstage, he thanked his wife for “reminding me to check my fly before I walk the red carpet.”

Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’, the first non-English language series nominated by the Actors Guild, won three awards, including Lee Jung-jae for Best Male Actor in a Drama Series and Jung Hoyeon for Best Female Actor in a Drama Series . . Those wins went to “Succession” stars Brian Cox and Jeremy Strong, and “The Morning Show” Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston.

“I’ve sat there many times watching you on the big screen dreaming of one day becoming an actor,” Jung told the crowd, fighting back tears.

Still, HBO’s “Succession” ultimately reigned supreme in the best drama series category. Cox rightly accepted the award with an expletive printed on his face mask, and another uttered as he struggled to remove it. But Cox got serious as he discussed The Russian invasion of Ukraine. In the most blunt remarks of the evening on the invasion, he noted that the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, was a comedian – and therefore a fellow interpreter. He urged censored dissidents in Russia to speak out.

“The people in Russia who don’t like what’s going on – and especially the artists – I think we should join them and celebrate them and hope that they can make a change, as I think they can,” said Cox said as the audience stood and clapped.

The SAG Awards are considered one of the most reliable predictors of the Oscars. Actors make up the largest percentage of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and their choices often align. In 2020, when the cast of “Parasite” and Brad Pitt won, they were an exact match.

Although the actors guild and the academy diverged last year when Aaron Sorkin’s 1960s courtroom drama ‘Trial of the Chicago 7’ tops SAG Awards and “Nomadland” triumphed at the Oscars“CODA’s” win suggests it’s a major threat to take home best picture over Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast” (which went winless on Sunday) and Jane Campion’s Principal Oscar Nominee “The Power of the Dog” (which failed to get an ensemble nod even though three of its cast were individually named).

SAG’s background can also mean Will Smith, star of the Williams family tennis drama “King Richard”, is heading for his first Oscar. Smith took best actor, winning his first SAG award.

“It may have been one of the greatest moments of my career right now because my name was called out for ‘King Richard’ sitting next to Venus Williams,” Smith beamed.

Best Actress was the hardest category to track. Many saw Olivia Colman (“The Lost Daughter”) as the favorite to win her second Oscar. In a particularly competitive category, those who were snubbed often attracted the most attention. “Spencer’s” Kristen Stewart was passed over by SAG, while Lady Gaga (“House of Gucci”) missed the film academy.

Yet it was Jessica Chastain, who plays the infamous televangelist in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” who won on Sunday, earning his first individual SAG award. As the Oscars approach on March 27, no category is more uncertain.

Meanwhile, “West Side Story’s” Ariana DeBose confirmed her frontrunner status with a win Sunday for Best Supporting Performance by an Actress. DeBose’s price has also had historic resonance.

“It’s telling that doors are opening,” DeBose said, speaking to reports in a backstage virtual press room. “It’s an honor to be seen, it’s an honor to be an Afro-Latina, an openly queer woman of color, a dancer, a singer and an actress. It’s telling for me that I won’t be not the last, and this is the most important.

The SAG Awards, which will be available to stream Monday on HBO Max, are presented by Hollywood actors guild SAG-AFTRA. After the Golden Globes in January were not an event, it was Hollywood’s first major in-person televised awards show — complete with red carpet and tearful speeches — this year. The “Hamilton” trio of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr. and Daveed Diggs kicked off the show with the stated theme “Together Again”.

“We have returned to a world where all we have to do to hang around like this is get dressed, show up, get swabbed, disinfected, screened, masked, vaccinated, boosted, fast tested and PCR in 24 hours,” said Odom Jr. “Now who’s ready to party?

Some actors, citing quarantine regulations tied to production schedules, attended remotely – including leading TV contestant ‘Ted Lasso’. Appearing via video link with his castmates around him, Jason Sudeikis accepted the award for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. The Apple TV+ show went on to be named Best Comedy Series Package.

Although the Oscars do not mandate vaccination of presenters (only attendees), it was mandatory for the SAG Awards, which are voted on by the Hollywood Actors Guild SAG-AFTRA. Other awards went to Jean Smart of “Hacks”, Kate Winslet of “Mare of Easttown” and Michael Keaton of “Dopesick”, who dedicated his award to his nephew, Michael. Keaton previously said he died of fentanyl and heroin use in 2016.

The SAG Awards also crowned actress “The Queen” Helen Mirren. The five-time SAG winner received a lifetime achievement award.

“Honestly, any accomplishment I’ve achieved is a result of my mantra which is basically: be on time and don’t be a jerk,” said Mirren, 76. “Thank you, thank you so much SAG for that. I hate to say the word ‘sag’ at my age.

Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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