‘Trial of the Chicago 7’ takes top honors at SAG Awards

In this video grab provided by the SAG Awards, Simone Ledward Boseman, wife of the late Chadwick Boseman, accepts the award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a leading role for "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" on his behalf during the 27th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday. (SAG Awards via AP)
In this video grab provided by the SAG Awards, Simone Ledward Boseman, wife of the late Chadwick Boseman, accepts the award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a leading role for "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" on his behalf during the 27th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday. (SAG Awards via AP)

Credit: Uncredited

Credit: Uncredited

The starry cast of Aaron Sorkin’s 1960s courtroom drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7” took the top prize Sunday at a virtual Screen Actors Guild Awards in which actors of color, for the first time, swept the individual film awards.

The 27th SAG Awards, presented by the Hollywood actors’ guild SAG-Aftra, were a muted affair — and not just because the red carpet-less ceremony was condensed to a prerecorded, Zoom-heavy, one-hour broadcast on TBS and TNT. The perceived Academy Awards front-runner — Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland” — wasn’t nominated for best ensemble, making this year’s postponed SAG Awards less of an Oscar preview than it is most years.

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Still, the win for Netflix’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” marked the first time a film from any streaming service won the guild’s ensemble award. Written and directed by Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” had been set for theatrical release by Paramount Pictures before the pandemic hit, leading to its sale to Netflix. The streamer is still after its first best-picture win at the Oscars.

Frank Langella, who plays the judge who presided over the 1969 prosecution of activists arrested during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, drew parallels between that era’s unrest and today’s while accepting the award on behalf of the cast.

In this image from video, Frank Langella speaks immediately following the announcement of his Screen Actors Guild Award win for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture for "The Trial of The Chicago 7." (AP Photo)
In this image from video, Frank Langella speaks immediately following the announcement of his Screen Actors Guild Award win for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture for "The Trial of The Chicago 7." (AP Photo)

Credit: Uncredited

Credit: Uncredited

“‘God give us leaders,’ said the Rev. Martin Luther King before he was shot down in cold blood on this very date in 1968 — a profound injustice,” said Langella, citing events leading up to those dramatized in “The Trial of the Chicago 7. “The Rev. King was right. We need leaders to guide us toward hating each other less.”

The win came over two other Netflix releases — “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “Da 5 Bloods” — as well as Amazon’s “One Night in Miami” and A24′s “Minari.” Had Lee Isaac Chung’s Korean-American family drama “Minari” won, it would have been the second straight year a film largely not in English won SAG’s top award. Last year, the cast of “Parasite” triumphed, becoming the first cast from a non-English language film to do so.

The SAG Awards are a closely watched Oscar harbinger. Actors make up the largest branch of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and SAG winners often line up with Oscar ones. Last year, “Parasite” went on to win best picture at the Academy Awards, and all of the individual SAG winners — Renée Zellweger, Brad Pitt, Laura Dern, Joaquin Phoenix — won at the Oscars, too.

Those awards this year went to a group entirely of actors of color, potentially setting the stage for a historically diverse slate of Oscar winners: Chadwick Boseman, best male actor for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”; Viola Davis, best female actor for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”; Yuh-Jung Youn, best female supporting actor for “Minari”; and Daniel Kaluuya, best male supporting actor for “Judas and the Black Messiah.”

In this video grab provided by the SAG Awards, Viola Davis accepts the award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a leading role for "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," as her husband Julius Tennon looks on during the 27th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. (SAG Awards via AP)
In this video grab provided by the SAG Awards, Viola Davis accepts the award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a leading role for "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," as her husband Julius Tennon looks on during the 27th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. (SAG Awards via AP)

Credit: Uncredited

Credit: Uncredited

Of those, Davis’ win was the most surprising in a category that has often belonged to Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”) or Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”). It’s Davis’ fifth individual SAG award.

“Thank you, August, for leaving a legacy for actors of color that we can relish the rest of our lives,” said Davis, referring to playwright August Wilson.

As it has throughout the awards season, best male actor again belonged to Boseman for his final performance. Boseman, who died in August at age 43, had already set a record for most SAG film nominations — four — in a year. He was also posthumously nominated for his supporting role in “Da 5 Bloods” and shared in the ensemble nominations for both Spike Lee’s film and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

It was the SAG Awards where Boseman gave one of his most memorable speeches. At the guild’s 2019 awards, Boseman spoke on behalf of the “Black Panther” cast when the film won the top award. “We all know what it’s like to be told that there is not a place for you to be featured,” Boseman said then. “Yet you are young, gifted and Black.”

The Academy Awards front-runner, “Nomadland” missed out on a best-ensemble nomination possibly because its cast is composed of largely non-professional actors. Zhao’s film previously won at the highly predictive Producers Guild Awards, as well as at the Golden Globes. “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” up for best picture at the Oscars and four other awards, could pose a challenge to the front-runner.

In an interview following the pre-taping of the award for “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Langella called the virtual experience much more civilized. “I’m in my bedroom slippers,” he said from New York’s Hudson Valley. “I have no pants on,” added his co-star Michael Keaton.

Eddie Redmayne, who plays Tom Hayden in the film, credited Sorkin and casting director Francine Maisler for assembling such a disparate group of actors — including Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Rylance, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jeremy Strong — into an ensemble.

“It was like a clash of different types of music, whether it was jazz or rock or classical — but all of that coming together under Aaron. He was the conductor, almost,” said Redmayne. “It was a joy day in and day out to watch these great and different and varied actors slugging it out.”

In television categories, the ensembles of “Schitt’s Creek” (for comedy series) and “The Crown” (for drama series) added to their string of awards. Other winners included Anya Taylor-Joy (“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 typically the highest-profile event for the Screen Actors Guild, though the union’s faceoff earlier this year with former President Donald Trump may have drawn more headlines. After the guild prepared to expel Trump (credits include “The Apprentice,” “Home Alone 2”) for his role in the Capitol riot, Trump resigned from SAG-Aftra.

Here is a complete list of winners:

TV AWARDS

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

Mark Ruffalo, “I Know This Much Is True”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

Anya Taylor-Joy, “The Queen’s Gambit” 

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

Jason Bateman, “Ozark” 

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

Gillian Anderson, “The Crown” 

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

Jason Sudeikis, “Ted Lasso” 

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

Catherine O’Hara, “Schitt’s Creek” 

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

“The Crown” 

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

“Schitt’s Creek” 

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Comedy or Drama Series

“The Mandalorian” 

MOTION PICTURE AWARDS

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” 

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” 

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah” 

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari” 

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

“The Trial of the Chicago 7” 

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

“Wonder Woman 1984” 

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