Comedian Sarah Silverman’s drug-addicted, adulterous suburban mother in “I Smile Back” won her a surprising SAG Award nomination for lead actress in a role that tapped into her past and established her as a gifted dramatic player.
Silverman got the nomination in a category where a number of accomplished actresses in standout performances were left out, including Jennifer Lawrence in “Joy,” Carey Mulligan in “Suffragette,” Lily Tomlin in “Grandma” and Charlotte Rampling in “45 Years.” Her nomination also came out of a movie that has had little traction, grossing only about $58,000 at the box office.
“I’m doing a Snoopy dance right now,” said Silverman in reacting to the news. “My arms are itchy with glee. I work hard to not let my self esteem be defined by outside forces, but ... today I’m giving myself a pass.”
But what about “The Martian”? Click to see the 22nd Screen Actors Guild Awards nomination snubs and surprises.(Fox, Bleecker Street, FX, Twentieth Century Fox)
Many predicted the strong performance of “The Martian’s” big-name cast would lead to both an ensemble nomnation and a nod for lead actor Matt Damon. The film was not recognized in any category.(Aidan Monaghan / Twentieth Century Fox)
While early reviews are mixed for “Joy,” many assumerd Jennifer Lawrence’s strong performance would lead to a fourth individual SAG Award nod. Neither Lawrence nor the film earned any nominations.(20th Century Fox)
Sarah Silverman left her comedic comfort zone for her role in “I Smile Back” and it paid off with a surprise nomination in the lead female actor category.(Broad Green Pictures)
“Beasts of No Nation” earned both an ensemble nod and a supporting actor nomination for Idris Elba. That Netflix’s first foray into film earned an ensemble nomination over a movie like “The Martian” is a feat worth noting.(Netflix )
Both Helen Mirren and Bryan Cranston have very deep SAG Awards resumes, but “Trumbo’s” ensemble performace nomination, on top of the individual recognition for both actors, still came as a surprise.(Hilary Bronwyn Gayle / Bleecker Street Media)
In a double surprise, Helen Mirren also earned a lead actress nomination for “Woman in Gold.”(Robert Viglasky / The Weinstein Company)
While the cast of “Spotlight” earned a nomination in the ensemble category, the lone individual performace to be recognized was Rachel McAdams’, for supporting actress.(Kerry Hayes )
Many considered “Straight Outta Compton” a long shot in the awards race, but the film earned a coveted ensemble performance nomination.(Jaimie Trueblood / Universal Pictures)
While not entirely unexpected, “The Hateful Eight” came away with no nominations.(Andrew Cooper / The Weinstein Company)
The SAG Awards completely overlooked “Empire,” including Taraji P. Henson, whose performace as fan-favorite Cookie Lyon lead to a 2015 Emmy nomination.(Chuck Hodes / FOX)
Although the SAG Awards recognized the ensemble of one that is Tatiana Maslany with a 2015 nomination, she was crowded out this year from the lead drama actress field.(BBC America)
That sketch-comedy series “Key and Peele” earned its first comedy ensemble nomination may not necessarily be surprising but is definitely notable as one of two newcomers in a field of returning favorites.(Danny Feld / Comedy Central)
There was no love for “Fargo” from the SAG Awards, which had to compete in the drama series category (for the 2015 awards “Fargo” was considered a miniseries).(Chris Large / FX)
The SAG Awards drama ensemble nods all went to previously nominated series, meaning new shows like “The Leftovers” were left out of the race.(Paul Schiraldi / HBO)
Silverman’s portrayal of Laney’s self-destructive slide contained little of the arrogance and invective that bristles in her stand-up comedy. Silverman has had small, resonant roles in films such as “Take This Waltz,” but her lead turn in “I Smile Back” was riven with interior demons that permeated every frame and demanded a nuanced performance of a woman falling apart.
“I don’t have easy access to my emotions. They’re very tightly packed and compartmentalized. But for this part, they had to be on the surface,” she told the Times in an interview earlier this year. “A really big director I admire told me once, ‘You’re really good, but I’ll never cast you in anything because you’re Sarah Silverman. People are too familiar with you. You’re like a personality. I need actors that people can get lost in.’ I couldn’t argue with him other than give me a chance.”
She added: “To me, I’ve always been a serious actor, but I’m not good at selling myself.”
In preparing for Laney, Silverman relied on director Adam Salky to keep her honed to the character in a film that bears no hint of a smile.
“I needed to be restrained,” said Silverman, whose stand-up comedy has defined her for a generation. “I didn’t want this to be me. You know, comics travel with a very unconscious bag of tricks, and a lot of actors do too. I didn’t want to have that. (This character) was something I wanted to be immersed in.”
Times staff writer Tre’vell Anderson contributed to this article.
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