"Argo" continued its unlikely march through the award season with the cast of the thriller winning the best ensemble for a film at the 19th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards held Sunday at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Saturday night it took the top prize at the Producers Guild Awards.
"I am really amazed and stunned," said Ben Affleck, the film's director and star. "This has nothing to do with me, it has to do with the actors in the film."
"Argo" is the story of how a fake Hollywood movie aided in an daring escape during the Iranian hostage crisis.
It was no upset that Daniel Day-Lewis, who played the 16th president in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," was named best film actor, as he readies his inevitable Oscar speech.
"Thank you to all my brothers and sisters in the Screen Actors Guild," said Day-Lewis, who has won two other SAG awards and two Oscars. "Have no doubt that this is an ensemble effort," he added.
Jennifer Lawrence, who plays a young widow who overcompensates with loose behavior after the death of her cop husband in "Silver Linings Playbook," received her first SAG award, which follows her Golden Globe win and makes her the favorite for the Oscar. She won the best lead actress.
"I want to thank MTV," said the 22-year-old actress, explaining she got her SAG card doing an MTV commercial at 16.
Anne Hathaway followed up her Golden Globes win as well, taking home the best-supporting female actor for her role in "Les Miserables" in which she plays Fantine, the factory worker turned prostitute who sings the show-stopping number "I Dreamed a Dream."
"I'm just so thrilled I have dental," joked the actress upon receiving the award. She added that she got her SAG card at 14 and thanked her mother for being an actor and voting for her.
Nicole Kidman presented the first award of the night to the best supporting actor in a film - a tough category with everyone in it an Oscar winner - to Tommy Lee Jones who plays a fire-breathing abolitionist in "Lincoln."
Jones was not at the ceremony.
As usual, the night began with a number of actors - Alfie Woodard, Hal Holbrook, Helen Hunt, Sofia Vergara among them - testifying to their membership in the union which boasts around 180,000 members and calls its award the "Actor." Categories are not actors and actresses but "male actors" and "female actors."
On the TV side, there were some surprises beginning with "Downton Abbey" on PBS beating out Showtime's thriller "Homeland" as best ensemble in a TV drama.
"We were totally not expecting this," said Phyllis Logan, who plays the head housekeeper Mrs. Hughes on the British popular costume series. She led a small contingent of five from the show to the stage.
Claire Danes was named best female actor as the bipolar CIA analyst in "Homeland."
"As a brand-spanking new mom, I find myself referring to the cliche that it takes a village to raise a child. Same thing with a TV series," she said, then listing many of the people involved in the show.
But she almost forgot her husband and child, shouting out thanks to them at the end of her speech.
Bryan Cranston was named best actor in a dramatic TV series for his role as science teacher turned meth dealer in AMC's "Breaking Bad." It was a bit of an upset. Damian Lewis from "Homeland" had won a Globe and an Emmy.
"It is so good to be bad," grinned Cranston upon accepting his first SAG honor.
The upcoming season will be the last for the series. He thanked the show's creator, Vince Gilligan, "for the role of my career."
ABC's "Modern Family," a satirical look at three very diverse clans, was named best TV ensemble comedy for the third straight time. Jesse Tyler Ferguson accepted the award for the cast and the paid tribute to "The Office" and "30 Rock." Both shows are ending their long runs on NBC this Thursday.
"You have set the bar so high," he said about both series.
It was a bittersweet night for "30 Rock" because its two leads - Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin - were named best actors in a TV comedy.
"Thanks for letting me in this union," Fey said after accepting the award from fellow Sarah Palin portrayer Julianne Moore. "I want to share this with my friend Amy Poehler, who I've known since she was pregnant with Lena Dunham (who beat them both for the Globe award).
"Our final episode is this Thursday. We're up against the `Big Bang Theory.' For once just tape the `Big Bang Theory,' for cryin' out loud," she jokingly implored.
It was Fey's fourth individual award and fifth overall.
Since "30 Rock" is going off the air, maybe - just maybe - Baldwin won't win best actor in a TV comedy next year. Sunday night he took home his seventh straight trophy.
"It's ridiculous," he said. "I have to thank Tina. It's the end of our show. We're all sad about that."
Having already brought home Emmys and Golden Globes awards, Julianne Moore and Kevin Costner completed triple crowns by winning best actor and actress in a movie or miniseries.
For Moore, it was her first SAG award.
"This is meaningful," she said holding the trophy, a sentiment echoed throughout the night. The actress won for playing Sarah Palin in "Game Change," the HBO film about the 2008 John McCain presidential campaign, when he choose then little-known Alaskan governor as his running mate. Costner, who won for the History Channel's "Hatfields and McCoys," was not at the ceremony to accept his award.
Baldwin introduced the segment honoring legendary funnyman Dick Van Dyke with the Life Achievement Award.
"Dick laid the groundwork for all of us in TV comedy," the "30 Rock" star said before he narrated clips of Van Dyke's career.
"That does an old man a lot of good," the 87-year-old Van Dyke said after taking the stage to a standing ovation as the theme song of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" played.
"I've been around this business for 70 years, and I still haven't figured out what I do," joked Van Dyke.
Carl Reiner, who created "The Dick Van Dyke Show", was supposed to introduce Van Dyke and last year's lifetime recipient, Van Dyke's co-star Mary Tyler Moore, but neither could attend the ceremony because they both had the flu.
"I'm looking at the greatest generation of actors," Van Dyke said in his own tribute to his cohorts. "You've lifted this art to a new level."
In the past, the SAG Awards haven't always been a good bellwether for Oscar winners. the union has a tendency to give awards to diverse casts like last year's winner "The Help" or "Traffic," "Gosford Park" and "Inglourious Basterds"; none which went on to win an Oscar as best picture.
Sometimes taking the top prize may help, though, as it did with "Crash" in 2005.
So "Argo"'s win doesn't mean a lot when the Oscar ceremony rolls around on Feb. 24. For best movie, the union is 9-17 (none was given out the first year); best actor is 14-19, including the last seven in a row; best actress is 12-18, although only 2-5 recently (Viola Davis beat Academy winner Meryl Streep last year); and in both supporting actor categories, it's 11-18), with last year's winners - Octavia Spencer and Christopher Plummer - going on to win Oscars.