Back-to-work Hollywood actors bring SAG Awards to Netflix

LOS ANGELES: Fresh from their months-long strike, Hollywood's A-listers gathered Saturday as the prestigious Screen Actors Guild Awards got under way, where another big night for "Oppenheimer" would surely tie up the Oscars race.

The 30th SAG Awards became the first prize-giving gala to stream globally on Netflix, lending a likely boost in viewers and prestige for an event already seen as an important Academy Award indicator.

The mood was celebratory as members of SAG-AFTRA – the union that represents some 120,000 performers, including A-list stars – congregated in numbers for the first time since extracting hard-fought gains from studios including Disney and Netflix in last year's work stoppage.

"It is especially meaningful to be here with us all together for this occasion, after going through a very difficult time with the strike," Idris Elba said as he opened the gala.

"I want to take this moment to honour and appreciate all of you, both here and watching at home, who stood up for SAG-AFTRA in solidarity and support."

Likeliest to be making winners' speeches later on Saturday are the actors from "Oppenheimer," Christopher Nolan's epic drama about the father of the atomic bomb, which has been relentlessly scooping up awards all season.

The movie – which has already won top prizes at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards, Directors Guild of America Awards, and Britain's BAFTAs – is the favourite to win SAG-AFTRA's top prize, for best performance by a cast.

Victory in that category led to best picture Oscar wins for recent movies such as "Parasite," "CODA" and "Everything Everywhere All at Once".

Many of the same actors who vote for the SAG Awards also make up the largest voting bloc for the Oscars, which will be held this year on March 10.

"Oppenheimer" is up against "Barbie," "Killers of the Flower Moon," "American Fiction" and "The Color Purple" for top honours.

In the best actress category, Emma Stone ("Poor Things") and Lily Gladstone ("Killers") are expected to vie for the prize, while Cillian Murphy ("Oppenheimer") and Paul Giamatti ("The Holdovers") are frontrunners on the best actor side.

Supporting actress and actor prizes have been going consistently this season to Da'Vine Joy Randolph ("The Holdovers") and Robert Downey Jr. ("Oppenheimer"), with few predicting an upset in either category at Saturday's gala.

Unlike the other major award shows, the SAG Awards also reward best stunt performances.

The night also honours television. The final season of "Succession" dominates the drama nominations, while "The Bear" took early comedy wins for stars Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri.

Presenters included Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt and Billie Eilish.

And Barbra Streisand, who has been busy promoting her recent memoir "My Name is Barbra," will receive a lifetime achievement award from Jennifer Aniston.

Netflix has been cautiously moving into the live events space in recent years, including a Chris Rock comedy special and a celebrity golf tournament.

But the SAG Awards deal marks the platform's first time hosting a Hollywood prize-giving gala.

Moving to Netflix from smaller US cable networks TBS and TNT gives the SAG Awards access to the streaming giant's 260 million-strong subscriber base – and meant no commercial breaks.

"Personally, I can't wait to get home and have Netflix recommend this show to me based on all the other stuff that I've watched myself in," joked Elba. --AFP

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