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Special Event

Screen Actors Guild Weighs in on Best in Television, Film

Aired January 30, 2001 - 9:37 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Movie lovers, this next story's for you as we get closer to the Oscars. It's the Screen Actors Guild, which is weighing in on what it considers the best in television and film. The nominees for the upcoming 7th Annual SAG Awards will be announced in just a few minutes.

CNN's Sherri Sylvester joining us live from West Hollywood with the latest.

Sherri, not the oldest awards in Hollywood, but they have become increasingly important with every year.

SHERRI SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're very accurate among the best actor and best actress winners here. Ten out of 12 have gone on to get the Oscar. Among those on that list, Tom Hanks, Frances McDormand and Geoffrey Rush. Listen very carefully in the next couple minutes because you may hear those names again this year.

Tom Hanks was the very first one awarded a SAG award. That was back in 1995. When he got his award, he actually pulled his SAG card, his union card, right out of his tuxedo pocket and said, I got this when I made the pilot for the "Bosom Buddies."

Of course, the voting members here, 4,200, pick the nominees. They're all folks who joined the union because they logged a lot of face time on camera, and that's how they got in the Screen Actors Guild.

Presenting the awards this evening -- or this morning, rather -- William Daniels, the president of SAG, is coming out, along with Lucy Liu, who works for "Ally McBeal." And she's won the ensemble award for her cast. I got the one-minute warning here. Also Cary Elwes, who is co-starring in shadow of the vampire, a very important film this season. Gotten a lot of critical acclaim.

Julia Roberts, looks like she may be a shoo-in this year. She has certainly been on quite the run with "Erin Brockovich." That film has a very good chance.

And a very special award here, one of the things that they do in both film and television, they have an ensemble award. Instead of singling out an individual, they say, we're going to honor the entire group, this is a great cast. Maybe "Traffic" might be one example of a film where you have several actors who are giving stellar performances, like Benicio Del Toro. Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta- Jones. They may honor the entire cast of that film.

Another film, "Best In Show," is a comedy which has another good group of actors, very well-known actors giving great performances. So that ensemble is a very important consideration.

Performances only this morning. No best picture, no best director, no best writer. Again, 4,200 members.

And the reason that they are so accurate in terms of the Oscars is that they are working actors. And when the Oscar nominations are selected, they, too, are chosen by the actors' branch of the academy. So for that reason, there is some overlap that members of the academy actors branch are quite often SAG members; therefore, the accuracy. That's why they are so good at this.

One thing to I want to show you. The award show season is well under way. This came to my desk yesterday. Every year, we tend to start getting these. They are trying to get the word out on the film "Traffic." This is the actual shooting script for the film "Traffic." And the marketing guys are out there working.

Last year, we got this for "American Beauty." It got all the reporters interested. They read the shooting script. They loved "American Beauty." They told a lot of stories about it. And, of course, we know what happened to that. Last year, they went on and got a lot of Oscar glory.

We're getting very close now. We've got 13 categories today.

And here comes William Daniels right now.

KAGAN: Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... from the Screen Actors Guild William Daniels.

WILLIAM DANIELS, SAG PRESIDENT: Good morning, and thank you for joining us.

This is an exciting time for the Screen Actors Guild. It's that moment when actors are recognized for their good work by their peers. There's nothing more satisfying.

Before I introduce our presenters, I want to take a moment to thank the sponsors of this year's post-awards gala, which benefits the Screen Actors Guild Foundation.

The Entertainment Industry Foundation and "People" magazine are sponsoring the SAG Awards Gala for the fifth consecutive year. Joining them this year as a cosponsor will be Balance Bar, where we sincerely appreciate their generosity to the SAG Foundation.

We also want to thank TNT people of their tremendous support for the Screen Actors Guild Awards. TNT will televise the 7th annual awards ceremony on Sunday, March 11th at 8:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific time. Ladies and gentlemen, this morning, we are announcing the nominations for this year's actors. Allow me to introduce the 1999 SAG Ensemble Award recipient and "Charles's Angel," Lucy Liu, who you may also know as Ling Wu in "Ally McBeal"; and Carl Elwes -- Cary Elwes, who is currently starring in "Shadow of the Vampire."

And here they are.

LUCY LIU, ACTRESS: Good morning.

The nominees for outstanding performance by a male actor in a television comedy series: Robert Downey Jr., "Ally McBeal"; Kelsey Grammer, "Frasier"; Sean Hayes, "Will and Grace"; Peter MacNicol, "Ally McBeal": David Hyde Pierce, "Frasier."

For outstanding performance by a female actor in a television comedy series, the nominees are: Calista Flockhart, "Ally McBeal"; Jane Kaczmarek, "Malcolm in the Middle"; Debra Messing, "Will and Grace"; Megan Mullally, "Will and Grace"; Sarah Jessica Parker, "Sex in the City."

And the nominees for outstanding performance by an ensemble in the television comedy series are: "Ally McBeal," "Frasier," "Friends," "Sex in the City," "Will and Grace."

CARY ELWES, ACTOR: Here are the nominees for outstanding performance by a female actor in a drama series. In this category, we had a tie; therefore, we have six nominees. And they are: Gillian Anderson, "The X-Files, " Edie Falco, "The Sopranos," Sally Field, "ER," Lauren Graham, "Gilmore Girls," and Allison Janney, "The West Wing"; Sela Ward, "Once and Again."

For outstanding performance by a male actor in a drama series, the nominees are: Tim Daly, "The Fugitive"; Anthony Edwards, "ER"; Dennis Franz, "NYPD Blue"; James Gandolfini, "The Sopranos"; and Martin Sheen, "The West Wing."

And the nominees for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series are: "ER," "Law and Order," "The Practice," "The Sopranos," "The West Wing."

LIU: The nominees for outstanding performance by a female actor in a television movie or a mini series are: Stockard Channing, "The Truth About Jane"; Judi Dench, "The Last of the Blond Bombshells"; Sally Field, "David Copperfield"; Elizabeth Franz, "Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman"; Vanessa Redgrave, "If These Walls Could Talk 2."

ELWES: For outstanding performance by a male actor in a television movie or a mini series, there was also a tie. And so again, we have six nominees. They are: Alec Baldwin, "Nuremberg"; Brian Cox, "Nuremberg"; Brian Dennehy, "Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman"; Danny Glover, "Freedom Song"; John Lithgow, "Don Quixote"; and James Woods, "Dirty Pictures."

LIU: The nominees for outstanding performance by a female actor in a supporting role are: Judi Dench,"Chocolat"; Kate Hudson, "Almost Famous"; Frances McDormand, "Almost Famous"; Julie Walters, "Billy Elliot"; Kate Winslet, "Quills."

ELWES: For outstanding performance by a male actor in a supporting role, the nominees are: Jeff Bridges, "The Contender"; Willem Dafoe, "Shadow of the Vampire"; Albert Finney, "Erin Brokovich"; Gary Oldman, "The Contender"; Joaquin Phoenix, "Gladiator."

LIU: For outstanding performance by a female actor in a leading role: Joan Allen, "The Contender"; Juliette Binoche, "Chocolat"; Ellen Burstyn, "Requiem for a Dream"; Laura Linney, "You Can Count On Me"; Julia Roberts, "Erin Brockovich."

ELWES: For outstanding performance by a male actor in a leading role: Jamie Bell, "Billy Elliot"; Russell Crowe, "Gladiator"; Benicio Del Toro, "Traffic"; Tom Hanks, "Cast Away"; Geoffrey Rush, "Quills."

LIU: And finally the nominees for outstanding performance by the cast of a motion picture are: "Almost Famous," "Billy Elliot", "Chocolat," "Gladiator," "Traffic."

ELWES: Remember to watch the 7th Annual Screen Actors Guild Award Sunday March 11th on TNT.

LIU: Thank you all for coming, and congratulations to all the nominees.

ELWES: Yes, congratulations.

SYLVESTER: We're back live. And again, just recapping quickly.

It was a big morning for "Billy Elliot." Almost everyone from that cast got some kind of recognition.

"Gladiator" did very well.

"Almost Famous," a couple of people are against each other. Frances McDormand and Kate Hudson are both nominated for best supporting actress, for "Almost Famous."

Again, the three that I named earlier, Geoffrey Rush is up for "Quills," and Tom Hanks is up for "Cast Away." So those two actors, who've won before, went on to get the Oscar. Tom Hanks for "Forrest Gump" and Geoffrey Rush for "Shine", will be back again, competing once again.

A very good morning on the television side for Sally Field. Sally Field has been out there working a lot. She's turned in some stellar performances on "ER" this year. And those have been awarded. She's got two nominations this morning.

Judi Dench has been nominated.

"Chocolat" did very well.

For best actress, of course, Julia Roberts and Ellen Burstyn, who turned in acclaimed performance in "Requiem for a Dream."

Let's see who else we have. Russell Crowe for "Gladiator." Russell Crowe was nominated for this award before for "The Insider." And his cast was nominated for the ensemble award for "L.A. Confidential" a couple of years ago.

Joining me now live, we have Lucy Liu.

LIU: Hey.

SYLVESTER: Hi, welcome. And congratulations with a couple of great nominations for your cast this morning...

LIU: Yes.

SYLVESTER: ... of "Ally McBeal."

LIU: Peter and Calista and Robert and the cast, which is great. It's fantastic.

SYLVESTER: Now, you have been here before, and actually won that ensemble award. What does that mean to a cast to be singled out that way?

LIU: I think that it's a huge honor. It's just -- it represents your peers and your mentors and everyone sort of giving you -- I don't know. It's sort a weird respect, because you respect all of these people that you know in the business as actors. And they sort of turn around and say, we really like your work, and congratulations to you, you know, all the stuff that you've done all year. And it's kind of a nice acknowledgment. It really is. It's -- it's -- it's more of an acknowledgment from, you know, as if you are a writer and you get an award from the writers guild or from the directors guild.

SYLVESTER: And another nod for Robert Downey Jr..

LIU: Yes.

SYLVESTER: He's done very well on your show.

LIU: He's fantastic. He's incredibly talented. So I think he deserves this nomination as much as anyone else.

SYLVESTER: Do you think that he'll be back with the show? Are there plans to bring him back for additional episodes?

LIU: I think there are. I mean, as far as I know, there was something in the trades the other week about him staying on for another 11 episodes. So I think that's is probably more valid than, you know, nobody really tells me what's going on, and I find out, you know, via the trades myself. So...

SYLVESTER: Reading the trades.

LIU: Yes.

SYLVESTER: All right, Lucy Liu, thank you very much...

LIU: Thank you.

SYLVESTER: ... for joining us.

I'm Sherri Sylvester, here at the Pacific Dine -- Design Center in Hollywood. Back to you, Daryn.

KAGAN: Sherri, this year's awards should be significant, in that -- can you hear me? Sherri?

SYLVESTER: Yes, I can hear you.

KAGAN: Yes.

SYLVESTER: Cary Elwes just stepped up here.

KAGAN: Well, aren't you the popular girl today? Go ahead.

SYLVESTER: Yes.

KAGAN: Go ahead.

SYLVESTER: OK. This is Cary Elwes joining me now live.

And as you know, he is a co-star in "Shadow of the Vampire." So thanks a lot for being us with us. And you've got a couple of nominations this morning.

ELWES: Yes, we're very fortunate. I'm very happy about Willem. He did a wonderful job in the film. So I'm very happy for him.

SYLVESTER: What are your memories of working with Willem Dafoe and John Malkovich on that film?

ELWES: Well, they count us (ph) as (ph) professionals, of course, for us performers. But they're also real guys, and a lot of fun to be around.

And -- somebody is sitting down right there.

SYLVESTER: Somebody is sitting on your hand.

ELWES: That's OK. It happens.

And -- but no, it was just wonderful to be around them, watch them work, and see them prepare and get into character. A lot of fun making the film.

SYLVESTER: What do you think it is about the film, "Shadow of the Vampire," that has brought so much acclaim and so much interest, certainly from the film critics out there?

ELWES: I think because it's an unusual story. And you know, this character played by Willem, Max Schreck, you know, his name in German means fear. And this was, like, the only film that he did, and he disappeared after it. So a myth started to build about this guy, and what really became of him. So, the script came out of that idea, which is that you, you know, what if he had been a real vampire? And what if Murnau had been crazy enough to hire a vampire to be in his film? So it was a good premise. So...

SYLVESTER: All right, thanks a lot for joining us this morning. Very, very early this morning.

ELWES: Yes, thank you.

SYLVESTER: All right, back to you, Daryn.

KAGAN: Sherri, before we let you go, just looking forward to this year's awards, significant in that it's a union and the whole -- the whole town of Hollywood is looking ahead a few months, talking about completely shutting down.

Do you think that that will be an overriding theme that we'll hear from people as they go on stage for the SAG awards?

SYLVESTER: Yes, this is the union. And -- right, this is the union. And they are in contract negotiations right now. And of course, the talk all year in Hollywood has been a possibility that they may actually go on strike. That would be at the end of June. That's when their contract expires, with the producers in Hollywood. So it's a very serious time. I mean, this is one day of levity.

President William Daniels' have already went through the commercial actors' strike, which lasted over five months. So he's had a tough year already, and a tough year ahead.

I think that when you hear the acceptance speeches this year, they're going to be strike-oriented. A lot of people are going to be talking about trying to solve this problem and get these talks over with early, so these people can continue working into next year.

KAGAN: Very good, Sherri Sylvester in West Hollywood.

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