"The Help" Wins Big at the 2012 SAG Awards

Peers honored peers at the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards — and put the Oscars into clearer focus.

By Eric Alt
|  Monday, Jan 30, 2012  |  Updated 1:02 PM PDT
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"The Help" didn't need any assistance dominating the 2012 Screen Actors Guild Awards Sunday, coming into the night with the most nominations of any movie and winning every one of them.

Biggest and best was its win for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture -- a recognition you might call Best Picture if these were the Oscars – for which it beat out "The Artist" and "The Descendants," both of which have plenty of pre-Oscar buzz.

But probably just as important were wins by Viola Davis, who beat odds-on favorite Meryl Streep ("The Iron Lady") for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Lead Role, and Octavia Spencer, who won for Female Actor in a Supporting Role.

Based on the best-selling book by Kathryn Stockett, "The Help" is the tale of a white Southern woman who writes a book from the perspective of two black maids with whom she develops a close relationship, and it tackles on the complexities of race and class in the U.S. in the 1960s.

The pile of wins, coming on top of a Golden Globe for Spencer, could certainly build some momentum for "The Help," which heads into the Feb. 26 Oscars with nominations in the same categories.

Both Davis and Spencer gave moving speeches, with Spencer offering up her award as a tribute to  "the downtrodden and the underprivileged."

The focus on "The Help" was a change this awards season, as most of the attention has centered on siilent film "The Artist," which earned several Golden Globes and several Oscar nominations.

At the SAGs, "The Artist" star Jean Dujardin bested George Clooney and Brad Pitt to take home the prize for Oustanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Lead Role.

But keep this in mind: While Dujardin won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a musical or comedy, Clooney won for the equivalent prize for an actor in a drama. That win could add some intrigue to the upcoming Oscars in those categories, too.

Beyond the awards season drama, the SAGs are a night for actors to pay tribute to one another, and the audience wildly applauded some longtime comrades and role models.

Comedy legends and former co-stars Betty White and Mary Tyler Moore each took the stage to thunderous applause, White to pick up the award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series and Moore to be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Moore's award, handed to her by her "Mary Tyler Moore Show" co-star Dick Van Dyke, was accompanied by a tribute montage to her life and career. The 75-year-old talked about how her famous three-name moniker came about due to all the many other Mary Moores already in SAG. 

The first major film actor award of the night, the Male Actor in a Supporting Role nod, kept with the theme of honoring industry vets and went to Golden Globe-winner Christopher Plummer for the film "Beginners." After taking the stage, the veteran actor quipped, “I can't tell you what fun I’ve had being a member of history’s second oldest profession."

The TV comedy category kept with the theme of old favorites as well, as Alec Baldwin took home his sixth consecutive SAG Award for his role as Jack Donaghy on the NBC comedy "30 Rock." The Oustanding Ensemble nod went to "Modern Family" for the second year in a row. 

"Boardwalk Empire" also won best Drama Ensemble for the second consecutive year, with lead Steve Buscemi also taking the award Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series. 

The show hit an odd note when SAG President Ken Howard came onstage to announce plans for SAG and AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, to merge after lengthy negotiations, strikes and other labor-related hardships. It was certainly of interest to the people in the room, but most watching at home were probably a little put off by such brouhaha around such an insider issue.

Here's the complete list of SAG Award winners:

 
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Demian Bichir – “A Better Life”
George Clooney – “The Descendants”
Leonardo DiCaprio – “J. Edgar”
Jean Dujardin – “The Artist”
Brad Pitt – “Moneyball”
 
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Glenn Close – “Albert Nobbs”
Viola Davis – “The Help”
Meryl Streep – “The Iron Lady”
Tilda Swinton – “We Need to Talk About Kevin”
Michelle Williams – “My Week with Marilyn”
 
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Kenneth Branagh – “My Week with Marilyn”
Armie Hammer – “J. Edgar”
Jonah Hill – “Moneyball”
Nick Nolte – “Warrior”
Christopher Plummer – “Beginners”
 
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Berenice Nejo – “The Artist”
Jessica Chastain – “The Help”
Melissa McCarthy – “Bridesmaids”
Janet McTeer – “Albert Nobbs”
Octavia Spenser – “The Help”
 
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A CAST IN A MOTION PICTURE
“The Artist”
“Bridesmaids”
“The Descendants”
“The Help”
“Midnight in Paris”
 
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ENSEMBLE IN A DRAMA SERIES
“Boardwalk Empire”
“Breaking Bad”
“Dexter”
“Game of Thrones”
“The Good Wife”
 
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ENSEMBLE IN A COMEDY SERIES
“30 Rock”
“The Big Bang Theory”
“Glee”
“Modern Family”
“The Office”
 
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Patrick J. Adams – “Suits”
Steve Buscemi – “Boardwalk Empire”
Kyle Chandler – “Friday Night Lights”
Bryan Cranston – “Breaking Bad”
Michael C. Hall – “Dexter”
 
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Kathy Bates – “Harry’s Law”
Glenn Close – “Damages”
Jessica Lange – “American Horror Story”
Julianna Magulies – “The Good Wife”
Kyra Sedgwick – “The Closer”
 
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Alec Baldwin – “30 Rock”
Ty Burrell – “Modern Family”
Steve Carell – “The Office”
Jon Cryer – “Two and a Half Men”
Eric Stonestreet – “Modern Family”
 
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Julie Bowen – “Modern Family”
Edie Falco – “Nurse Jackie”
Tina Fey – “30 Rock”
Sofia Vergara – “Modern Family”
Betty White – “Hot in Cleveland”
 
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A TELEVISION MOVIE OR MINISERIES
Laurence Fishburne – “Thurgood”
Paul Giamatti – “Too Big To Fail”
Greg Kinnear – “The Kennedys”
Guy Pearce – “Mildred Pierce”
James Woods – “Too Big To Fail”
 
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A TELEVISION MOVIE OR MINISERIES
Diane Lane – “Cinema Verite”
Maggie Smith – “Downton Abbey”
Emily Watson – “Appropriate Adult”
Betty White – “The Lost Valentine”
Kate Winslet – “Mildred Pierce” 

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