The stellar cast of the 1960s court drama ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’ took top honor Sunday at a virtual and prerecorded SAG Awards that saw Netflix be awarded for first time the Hollywood Screen Actors Guild’s top award.
The 27th edition of the SAG Awards was a quiet affair, and not just because the ceremony was virtual, with no red carpet, and condensed into a one-hour pre-recorded broadcast. Chloé Zhao’s favorite film in the Academy Award race, Chloé Zhao’s ‘Nomadland’, was not nominated for best cast, making the SAGs serve less than other years as a barometer of what will happen in the years. Oscar.
Even so, the victory of ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’ marked the first time that a movie from any streaming service has won the award for the best cast in the guild. Written and directed by Sorkin, the film was to be released by Paramount Pictures in theaters before the pandemic, which led to its sale to Netflix. The company is still seeking its first Oscar for best picture.
Frank Langella, who plays the judge who presided over the trial of activists arrested in 1969 during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, drew parallels between the riots of that time and those of today by accepting the award on behalf of the cast.
The film surpassed two other nominated Netflix premieres: ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ (‘The mother of the blues’) and’ Da 5 Bloods’ (‘5 bloods’), as well as’ One Night in Miami …’ (‘ A night in Miami… ‘) by Amazon and’ Minari ‘by A24. Had it won ‘Minari’, a Korean-American family drama by Lee Isaac Chung, it would have been the second year in a row that a mostly non-English language film has won the top SAG award. Last year, the cast of “Parasite” (“Parasites”) triumphed, becoming the first cast of a non-English language film to do so.
The SAG Awards are closely watched in anticipation of the Oscars. Actors represent the largest number of voters in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and SAG winners often line up with Oscar winners. Last year, ‘Parasite’ ended up taking the Academy Award for best picture, and all individual SAG winners Renée Zellweger, Brad Pitt, Laura Dern and Joaquin Phoenix also won Oscars.
Those awards went this year to Chadwick Boseman for best actor for ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’; Viola Davis as best actress also for ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’; Yuh-Jung Youn for Best Supporting Actress for ‘Minari’; and Daniel Kaluuya as best supporting actor for ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ (‘Judas and the black messiah’).
Of them, Davis’ victory was the most surprising, as this season the most awarded have been Carey Mulligan for ‘Promising Young Woman’ (‘Beautiful revenge’) and Frances McDormand for ‘Nomadland’. It is the fifth individual SAG for Davis.
“Thank you, August, for leaving a legacy for actors of color that we can enjoy for the rest of our lives,” the actress said of playwright August Wilson.
As has been the case throughout awards season, the best actor award went back to Boseman for his final work. Boseman, who died last August at age 43, had already set a record with four nominations in a single year for film. He was also nominated posthumously for his supporting role in ‘Da 5 Bloods’ and was featured in the Best Ensemble nominations for both Spike Lee’s film and ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.’
It was at the SAG Awards that Boseman gave one of his most memorable speeches. At the 2019 ceremony, he spoke on behalf of the cast of ‘Black Panther’ when they won the highest award.
We all know what it’s like to be told there’s no place for you to show up, ”Boseman said at the time.
“But you are young, talented and black.”
Academy Award favorite ‘Nomadland’ was not nominated for best cast possibly because hers is largely made up of non-professional actors. Zhao’s film previously won the prescient Producers Guild Award as well as the Golden Globe. ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’, which is competing for the Oscar for best picture and four other awards, could present a challenge for ‘ Nomadland ‘in contention.
In an interview after the prerecorded award for ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’, Langella called the virtual experience far more civilized.
“I’m in slippers,” he said from New York’s Hudson Valley.
“I have no pants,” added his co-star Michael Keaton.
Eddie Redmayne, who plays Tom Hayden in the film, credited Sorkin and casting director Francine Maisler for bringing together such a disparate group of actors that they include Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Rylance and Jeremy Strong.
“It was like a clash of different types of music, be it jazz, rock or classical, but all of that came together under Aaron’s direction. He was almost like a music director, ”Redmayne said.
“It was a joy to see these great actors, so different and varied, fighting hard.”
In the television categories, the casts of ‘Schitt’s Creek’ (comedy series) and ‘The Crown’ (drama series) expanded their list of accolades. Other winners were Anya Taylor-Joy for ‘The Queen’s Gambit’, Gillian Anderson (‘The Crown’), Jason Sudeikis (‘Ted Lasso’), Jason Bateman (‘Ozark’) and Mark Ruffalo ( ‘I Know This Much Is True’).
The awards are often the most prominent event for the Screen Actors Guild, though the guild’s showdown earlier in the year with former President Donald Trump may have generated more headlines. After the union prepared to oust Trump (whose credits include “The Apprentice,” “Home Alone 2”) for his role in the Capitol riots, Trump resigned from SAG-Aftra.