SAG Awards 2015: With ‘Birdman’ win, SAG again celebrates actors as actors

Michael Keaton as Riggan and Naomi Watts as Lesleyin the movie “Birdman.”
(Fox Searchlight Pictures / Fox Searchlight Pictures)

With its win for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture on Sunday night, “Birdman” certainly looked like another instance of the Screen Actors Guild celebrating actors for playing actors. The film follows the backstage events of a theater production put on by a film star attempting to revive his floundering career and faltering sense of self-worth.

“This film showed the courage actors have to lay it all on the line,” the film’s Michael Keaton said speaking backstage after the awards. “I think that’s why [the voters] respectfully thought as a group we deserved a little prize.”


SAG has often recognized stories set in and around acting and/or Hollywood. Two years ago they gave their top prize to “Argo,” which depicted small-time Hollywood hustlers in a scheme to free Americans from Iran. Eventual Best Picture Oscar winner “The Artist” was also nominated for SAG’s cast award. “Chicago” was another razzle-dazzle showbiz-themed SAG Award winner. The backstage romance of “Shakespeare in Love” was a SAG winner and, in its very first year, the SAG Awards nominated the Hollywood satire  “Get Shorty.”


And though the pair of actors nominated from “Birdman,” Keaton and Edward Norton, did not win, they join a list of other actors nominated for playing actors. Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh were nominated for playing Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier in “My Week with Marilyn.” Robert Downey Jr. was nominated for a SAG award for playing an actor in “Tropic Thunder.” Actor Jean Dujardin did win a SAG Award for playing an actor in “The Artist.”

In accepting her lifetime achievement award on Sunday night, actress Debbie Reynolds made mention of what she called one of her favorite roles, the tribute to the early era of sound filmmaking, “Singin’ In the Rain.”

PHOTOS: SAG Awards 2015 top nominees and winners | Red carpet | Presenters | Show highlights | Quotes

Backstage on Sunday night, “Birdman” actress Naomi Watts was asked if the film was true in regards to an actor’s thought process.


“I would say it is,” Watts responded. “And not just on stage or in front of the cameras, but pretty much in my nightmares too.

“This was an extreme case because we have these long, continuous shots. If you made a mistake, you’re possibly destroying another actor’s best work. The responsibility of that made it high pressure. But on the flip side, it was incredibly exciting.  It was like winning a race, which made it probably the most collaborative experience. As actors, maybe that’s why we got recognized.”

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