Black Panther takes top SAG awards prize, boosting Oscar chances
Movie ensemble triumph may boost its Oscar chances
Marvel superhero film Black Panther, heralded for its mainly black cast and vibrant celebration of African culture, won the top Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award on Sunday, boosting its stature ahead of next month's Oscars ceremony.
It was named best movie ensemble in a surprise triumph over favourite A Star Is Born, the Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga musical revival that ended the night without any SAG trophies.
Glenn Close was honoured as best film actress for playing a devoted spouse in The Wife, while Rami Malek won best film actor for his portrayal of Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.
The awards from Hollywood's largest actors' union are closely watched because actors form the largest voting group in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the Oscars.
Black Panther has been embraced by audiences, becoming the second highest grossing movie at worldwide box offices in 2018 and applauded as a milestone for diversity in Hollywood.
"I didn't think I was going to have to speak," star Chadwick Boseman said on stage, surrounded by his castmates.
He said his co-stars "all know what it's like to be told there is not a place for you to be featured, yet you are young, gifted and black", referring to the 1969 Nina Simone anthem of racial pride.
But he added that they realised early on that "we had something special that we wanted to give the world".
Malek praised the character he played.
"I get some power from him that is about stepping up and living your best life and being exactly who you want to be," he said of Mercury.
Close said she wore her grandmother's wedding ring to the SAG awards after learning she had wanted to be an actor but the option was unavailable to her.
The victory for Black Panther is a sign that it will enjoy broad support in this year's Oscars best picture race.
Mahershala Ali received the trophy for best supporting actor in a movie for his role as jazz pianist Don Shirley in Green Book, while Emily Blunt won best supporting actress in a movie for A Quiet Place.
In the television category, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel swept the comedy honours, winning best ensemble as well as best actor and actress for stars Tony Shalhoub and Rachel Brosnahan.
This Is Us won best ensemble cast for a TV drama, while best actor (drama) went to Jason Bateman for Ozark and best actress (drama) Sandra Oh for Killing Eve.
Darren Criss took home best actor (TV movie or limited series) for The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story and Patricia Arquette scored best actress (TV movie or limited series) for Escape At Dannemora. - REUTERS