© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The 47th AFI Life Achievement Award honoring actor Denzel Washington in Los Angeles
By Jill Serjeant LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -The theater drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and the jazz period film “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” were the big winners of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards, one of the last major ceremonies before the Oscars. “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” set during a 1968 Vietnam War protest, took home the best ensemble award with a cast that includes Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Frank Langella and Mark Rylance. Langella credited screenwriter and director Aaron Sorkin for the win, saying his “voice is the soul of this movie.” The four winning film actors were people of color, the first time this has happened in the history of the 27 SAG Awards. Chadwick Boseman, who died of cancer last year at age 43, received another award for his final role as an ambitious 1930s trumpeter in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Sunday’s victory at SAG positioned him as the favorite for his first Oscar at the Academy Awards on April 25. In agreeing on Boseman’s behalf, his widow Simone Ledward Boseman quoted a saying from the late actor himself. “If you see the world out of balance, be a crusader who presses hard on the rocker of the mind.” Viola Davis won the best actress award for playing a jazz diva in “Ma Rainey,” beating out alleged favorites Frances McDormand for “Nomadland” and Carey Mulligan in the revenge drama “Promising Young Woman.” The SAG Awards, chosen by members of the Actors Guild, are closely watched because actors form the largest voting pool at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which organizes the Oscars. The victory of “The Chicago 7 Trial” increased the film’s chances of winning the Academy Award for best picture in a year in which the modern recession-era movie “Nomadland” took many. from the pre-Oscars awards. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s SAG ceremony was shortened from a gala dinner to an hour-long presentation, held remotely, and filled with jokes about how the actors occupied their free time during the locked up or started their careers. Helen Mirren spoke of a close encounter with a bear during the pandemic, Sterling K. Brown demonstrated his juggling skills, and Jimmy Fallon played the harmonica. “Minari,” the Korean-language story of an immigrant family struggling to succeed in 1980s Arkansas, earned South Korean veteran Youn Yuh-jung a supporting actress award as a curmudgeonly grandmother. “I am very happy and happy,” said Youn, 73. British actor Daniel Kaluuya won for his supporting role as late Black Panther activist Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah.” The SAG Awards also recognize television performers, with the casts of “Schitt’s Creek” and “The Crown” taking home top awards in comedy and drama, respectively. Many of SAG’s winners and nominees are also set for honors at the British BAFTA Awards next week and at the Independent Spirit Awards on April 22.