March 09, 2003 08:54 PM

The Screen Actors Guild Awards had “Chicago”‘s number Sunday night, as the cast of the musical took best ensemble honors, while Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones picked up wins for lead and supporting actress, respectively.

“Gangs of New York” bully Daniel Day-Lewis was named best actor, and Christopher Walken scored best supporting actor for his role as Leonardo DiCaprio’s father in “Catch Me If You Can.”

Zellweger’s victory came as something of a surprise, given that it has been widely assumed that “The Hours” star Nicole Kidman had a lock on the Best Actress Oscar, to be presented in two weeks. The SAG Awards are considered a strong indicator in that upcoming race.

Zellweger, who was nominated alongside Salma Hayek (“Frida”), Diane Lane (“Unfaithful”) and Julianne Moore (“Far from Heaven”), shrieked when her name was called. She then thanked her fellow “Chicago” costars and said that showing up to look at Richard Gere’s face every morning “isn’t a bad day’s work.”

Day-Lewis won SAG’s Actor trophy in a tight category that also included Jack Nicholson (“About Schmidt”), Nicolas Cage (“Adaptation”), Adrien Brody (“The Pianist”) and Gere (“Chicago”). The English actor cited the influence of seeing movies such as “A Place in the Sun,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “From Here to Eternity” and even spaghetti Westerns in shaping his acting dreams.

He also thanked his “Gangs” costars, calling DiCaprio “sweet,” and adding that the bad thing about John C. Reilly “is that he has a habit of making all the other actors around him look as if they are acting.”

Because the guild’s ceremony only recognizes performances, its ensemble category is regarded as the equivalent of a best-picture prize — and that award went to “Chicago.”

Gere, serving as cast spokesman, said, “I have never, ever had such fun in my life until I did this, and I think everyone here feels the same way.”

In addition to “Chicago,” other films competing for the ensemble honor were the fantasy epic “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” the surprise romantic-comedy blockbuster “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” the literary suicide drama “The Hours” and the offbeat screenwriting comedy “Adaptation.”

In the TV races, Edie Falco and James Gandolfini were cited for their leading roles on “The Sopranos,” while comedians Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally cleaned up for “Will & Grace.” The ensemble awards went to “Six Feet Under” for drama and “Everybody Loves Raymond” for comedy.

Gandolfini, who is suing HBO regarding his contract for next season, chuckled as he accepted his award. “Maybe there’s some stuff lately that makes me seem ungrateful, but HBO, I’d like to thank you for what you’ve done … it is a great place to work,” he said.

SAG also handed lifetime achievement honors Sunday night to Clint Eastwood for his work in front of the camera and for the actor’s union.

Some 4,200 randomly selected members of the union chose nominations for the SAG Awards. The guild’s full roster of 98,000 members was eligible to vote for final winners.

Here’s a complete list of the night’s winners:


Lead Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, “Gangs of New York”
Lead Actress: Renee Zellweger, “Chicago”
Supporting Actor: Christopher Walken, “Catch Me If You Can”
Supporting Actress: Catherine Zeta-Jones, “Chicago”
Outstanding Cast: “Chicago”


Lead Actor, Drama: James Gandolfini, “The Sopranos”
Lead Actress, Drama: Edie Falco, “The Sopranos”
Lead Actor, Comedy: Sean Hayes, “Will & Grace”
Lead Actress, Comedy: Megan Mullally, “Will & Grace”
Lead Actor, Miniseries or TV Movie: William H. Macy, “Door to Door”
Lead Actress, Miniseries or TV Movie: Stockard Channing, “The Matthew Shepard Story”
Ensemble, Drama: “Six Feet Under”
Ensemble, Comedy: “Everybody Loves Raymond”

9:30 p.m.: ‘Will & Grace’ & Clint Take SAG Honors

“Will & Grace,” like “The Sopranos,” took two top TV awards at the ninth annual Screen Actors Guild Awards — presented Sunday night in Los Angeles exactly two weeks before the Oscars take center stage in Hollywood.

Outstanding actress in a comedy TV series winner Megan Mullally, of “Will & Grace,” pulled an Edie Falco and cited a great actress in her acceptance speech. Mullally said, “I was trying to tell Meryl Streep that I love her, which is so queer, and I tripped on the stairs on my way up here.”

Mullally’s costar Sean Hayes, named outstanding actor in a comedy series, kissed the show’s other stars, Debra Messing and Eric McCormack (neither of whom were individually nominated), then bared his stomach onstage. On it someone had drawn a diagram of six-pack abs, and he said now he could afford to have the operation for the perfect tummy.

Then he told the room: “It wasn’t so long ago that I couldn’t pay my rent. Now I can pay all your rent.”

Yet “Will & Grace” didn’t win for ensemble in a comedy series — nor did the casts of “Frasier,” “Friends” or “Sex and the City.” The award went to “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

“We’ll make this quick. There are movie stars here,” said the CBS sitcom’s star, Ray Romano.

Romano immediately turned the podium over to his costar, Brad Garrett, who said he was going to join the cast of “The Sopranos” — a playful poke at SAG winner James Gandolfini, who is suing HBO over his “Sopranos” contract.

“Is he laughing?” Garrett asked of Gandolfini.

Romano returned to the stage to present Clint Eastwood with SAG’s lifetime achievement award. Eastwood made his breakthrough on the 1959 TV series “Rawhide” and became a film star playing reticent gunslingers in such Westerns as 1966’s “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and the rogue cop in the “Dirty Harry” movies.

Since 1971, he has directed 24 films and starred in most of them, including 1985’s “Pale Rider,” 1995’s “The Bridges of Madison County” and 1992’s “Unforgiven,” which won Oscars for Best Picture and Director.

In accepting, Eastwood, stoic as ever, told the crowd, “I hope this doesn’t mean I’m supposed to collect my pension and head on down the road.

“I appreciate everything that all of you had to go through at a certain point in your lives,” he told his fellow actors, before promising that “we will all work together because I have no intention of bailing out.”

Earlier in the proceedings, Stockard Channing picked up the SAG honor for outstanding performance by a female actor in a TV movie or miniseries, for her role as the real-life mother of the slain gay student in “The Matthew Shepard Story.”

Accepting her award, Channing said: “I think acting, in my opinion, is only as good as the people you act with. It’s really that simple. In this case, I had the good fortune of playing with amazing and really talented people.”

She then paid special tribute to “Law & Order” star Sam Waterston, who played her husband in the TV movie, and credited him with making their roles as Judy and Dennis Shepard true to life.

8:30 p.m.: Zeta-Jones, Gandolfini Kick Off SAGs

A very pregnant Catherine Zeta-Jones joined Christopher Walken, Edie Falco, James Gandolfini and the cast of HBO’s “Six Feet Under” in the winner’s circle Sunday night to kick off the ninth annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Compared to some of the other awards shows around, the two-hour SAG gathering — strong on star power but weak on tomfoolery and completely devoid of production numbers — seemed like a low-key if heartfelt affair, with actors saluting actors.

The night’s first winner, Zeta-Jones, hugged her hubby Michael Douglas and her “Chicago” costar (and rival nominee) Queen Latifah, before excitedly taking the stage as best supporting movie actress for her role as Velma Kelly in the movie musical. The film leads the list of SAG nominees, with five. (It also tops all Oscar nominees, with 13.)

“If I weren’t pregnant,” Zeta-Jones said, acknowledging her fellow dancers in the audience, “we’d do it all over again.”

She then thanked Douglas, whom she called “my biggest, biggest support mechanism and probably my favorite actor in the world.”

Walken walked away with the supporting actor award for his role as the father of Leonardo DiCaprio in “Catch Me If You Can,” and he thanked his fellow nominees: Chris Cooper in “Adaptation,” Ed Harris in “The Hours,” Alfred Molina in “Frida” and Dennis Quaid in “Far from Heaven.”

“We are family,” Walken told them. “And I hope we all get to work together.”

Falco won the Actor (as the union’s award is called) for leading dramatic TV actress for her role as Carmela Soprano on HBO’s “The Sopranos.”

“I just locked eyes with Meryl Streep,” she declared when she reached the podium. “I need a few minutes to collect myself.”

Streep graciously waved to her. “I’m hugely grateful to be part of this show,” Falco said, “and I’m so glad people like it.”

Her TV husband, Gandolfini, followed with a win for best actor as Tony Soprano. Gandolfini is suing HBO regarding his contract for next season, but the actor (sporting a beard) chuckled as he accepted the award. “Maybe there’s some stuff lately that makes me seem ungrateful, but HBO, I’d like to thank you for what you’ve done … it is a great place to work,” he said.

HBO’s other Sunday night sensation, the three-season-old “Six Feet Under,” took the Actor for ensemble in a drama series. Frances Conroy, who plays the mother on the show about a dysfunctional family of undertakers, said the cast is, indeed, like a family. Her costars nodded in agreement.

To open Sunday night’s TNT broadcast from Los Angeles, Halle Berry, Bernie Mac, Treat Williams, David Hyde Pierce, Kathy Bates, Kristin Davis and Molina stared into the TV camera, introducing themselves from their banquet tables and noting — individually — that they are actors.

Mac even added that he’s a good one, eliciting a loud chuckle from inside the Shrine Auditorium.

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