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Berry, Crowe snag top SAG honors

By
PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter

LOS ANGELES, March 11 (UPI) -- Halle Berry and Russell Crowe took the top two prizes Sunday at the eighth annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles.

For Berry -- who was honored for her performance in "Monster's Ball" as a woman who falls in love with the white prison guard who executed her husband -- the SAG Award represents a major step towards possibly becoming the first black actress to win a best actress Oscar.

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In the first seven years that the actors union has handed out its awards, the winner for outstanding female actor in a lead role has gone on to win the Oscar five times.

Crowe -- who took home his first Actor Award for his performance in "A Beautiful Mind" as the schizophrenic Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. -- seems to have strengthened his hand for a second straight best actor Oscar. Six of the previous SAG winners for male actor in a leading role have gone on to win the Oscar -- the only exception coming last year when Benicio Del Toro won the SAG Award but went on to win the Oscar for supporting actor for "Traffic."

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The cast of "Gosford Park" won for outstanding cast of a theatrical motion picture.

Berry said she was well aware that the recognition she has been receiving for "Monster's Ball" could be meaningful to other minority actors.

"For a person of color to have the word 'award-winning' attached to their name," she said, "means hope for every other person of color out there."

Berry won an Actor in 2000 for female actor in a TV movie or miniseries for her performances in the title role of "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" -- a role for which she also won a Golden Globe.

Her voice cracked with emotion as she spoke with reporters backstage.

"I don't really care what happens at the Oscars," said Berry, " and I don't want to seem flip about it, but, you know, so many good things have come my way because of this project."

Sissy Spacek -- who had won most of the best actress honors during the current awards season -- had widely been regarded as the favorite to take the SAG Award and the Oscar. Berry's SAG win may force handicappers to reevaluate the race.

Crowe's victory came one night after Ron Howard, the director of "A Beautiful Mind," won his second Directors Guild of America feature film award. Last week, "A Beautiful Mind" writer Akiva Goldsman won the Writers Guild of America Award for best original screenplay.

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Like Berry, Crowe said he isn't "desperate ... by any means" about his movie's Oscar prospects. He said the commercial success of the movie has given him a high opinion of American moviegoers, pointing out that "A Beautiful Mind" has grossed more than $140 million ($144.3 million through March 10).

"That says a great deal to me about the intellect of the American public," Crowe said.

"Gosford Park" won two Actor Awards. Besides the award for outstanding cast, the comic murder-mystery set against the British class system also earned an award for Helen Mirren, for outstanding female actor in a supporting role.

Ian McKellen won for lead actor in a supporting role for her performance as the wizard Gandalf in "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring."

NBC's White House drama "The West Wing" swept the TV drama series categories for a second straight year.

Martin Sheen once again won for male actor in a drama series for his portrayal of President Josiah Bartlet. Allison Janney -- who now has five Actors -- won her second straight Actor for female actor for her performance as White House press secretary C.J. Cregg. The cast -- Stockard Channing, Dulé Hill, Janney, Rob Lowe, Janel Moloney, Richard Schiff, Sheen, John Spencer and Bradley Whitford -- won for outstanding ensemble.

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Ben Kingsley won for male actor in a TV movie or miniseries for his performance as Otto Frank in the ABC movie, "Anne Frank." Judy Davis won for female actor in a TV movie or miniseries for her Emmy-winning performance as Judy Garland in the ABC miniseries, "Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows."

The NBC comedy "Will & Grace" scored a pair of awards as Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally won for male and female actor in a comedy series, for their performances as Jack McFarland and Karen Walker. The cast of the HBO comedy "Sex and the City" -- Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon and Sarah Jessica Parker -- won for ensemble in a comedy series.

The actors union presented its 38th Annual Life Achievement Award to former SAG president Edward Asner, best-known as the Emmy-winning star of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Lou Grant."

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