February 20, 2004 10:15 AM

After he was absent from the Golden Globes, Sean Penn showed up for Sunday night’s Screen Actors Guild Awards. But the Oscar frontrunner got a surprise from another actor who was absent: Johnny Depp.

The star of “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” scored a major upset at the 10th annual ceremony, beating out both Penn and Bill Murray to win best male actor for his role as the surly, drunken pirate whom he patterned after Rolling Stone Keith Richards.

The other film categories proved a little more predictable, with the evening’s big award — for best ensemble — going to “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” (Many of the film’s bigger stars, including Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen and Orlando Bloom, were not at the ceremony.)

Female actor honors went to Golden Globe winner Charlize Theron for her startling transformation in “Monster.” Theron, who gained more than 30 lbs. for the role of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, looked absolutely stunning as she thanked her mother for “putting me on a plane with a one-way ticket to Hollywood.”

Tim Robbins received supporting actor honors for “Mystic River,” while Renee Zellweger referred to her invitation to SAGs as “the nicest of the year,” after she won the female supporting actor prize for her performance in “Cold Mountain.” For many actors, the SAG Awards are the ultimate prize in the awards-show season, because they are voted on by fellow actors.

Check out all the big winners from Sunday’s SAG Awards.

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