ABOVE PHOTO: Harry Shum Jr., from left, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis pose in the press room with the award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” at the 29th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023, at the Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
By Jake Coyle
The unlikely awards season juggernaut “Everything Everywhere All at Once” marched on at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, and even gathered steam with wins not just for best ensemble, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan but also for Jamie Lee Curtis.
The SAG Awards, often an Oscar preview, threw some curve balls into the Oscars race in a ceremony streamed live on Netflix’s YouTube page from Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles.
But the clearest result of the SAG Awards was the overwhelming success of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s madcap multiverse tale, which has now used its hotdog fingers to snag top honors from the acting, directing and producing guilds. Only one film (“Apollo 13”) had won all three and not gone on to win best picture at the Oscars.
After so much of the cast of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” had already been on the stage to accept awards, the night’s final moment belonged to 94-year-old James Hong, a supporting player in the film and a trailblazer for Asian American representation in Hollywood. He brought up the ignoble yellowface history of the 1937 film “The Good Earth.”
“The leading role was played with these guys with their eyes taped up like this and they talked like this because the producers said the Asians were not good enough and they were not box office,” said Hong. “But look at us now!”
Hong added that the cast of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” wasn’t all Chinese, though he granted Jamie Lee Curtis had a good Chinese name. Curtis’ win was one of the most surprising of the night, coming over the longtime favorite, Angela Bassett (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”), who had seemed to be on a clear path to becoming the first actor to win an Oscar for a performance in a Marvel movie.
A visibly moved Curtis said she was wearing the wedding ring her father, Tony Curtis, gave her mother, Janet Leigh.
“I know you look at me and think ‘Nepo baby,’” said Curtis, who won in her first SAG nomination. “But the truth of the matter is that I’m 64 years old and this is just amazing.”
The actors guild, though, lent some clarity to the lead categories. Though some have seen best actress as a toss up between Yeoh and BAFTA winner Cate Blanchett (“Tár”), Yeoh again took home the award for best female lead performance.
“This is not just for me,” said Yeoh, the first Asian actress to win the SAG Award for female lead. “It’s for every little girl that looks like me.”
Quan, the former child star, also won for best supporting male actor. The “Everything Everywhere All at Once” co-star had left acting for years after auditions dried up. He’s also the first Asian to win best male supporting actor at the SAG Awards.
“When I stepped away from acting, it was because there were so few opportunities,” said Quan. “Now, tonight we are celebrating James Hong, Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Hong Chau, Harry Shum Jr. The landscape looks so different now.”
Some online commentators suggested there was irony in Mark Wahlberg, who presented best ensemble, handing out the night’s final award to a film with a predominantly Asian and Asian American cast. In 1988, a 16-year-old Wahlberg attacked two Vietnamese men while trying to steal beer near his home in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Wahlberg, who said race wasn’t a factor in the assault, served 45 days of a two-year sentence. Wahlberg also announced the film “Women Talking” as “Women Are Talking.”
Best actor has been one of the hardest races to call. Austin Butler (“Elvis”), Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”) and Colin Farrell ( “The Banshees of Inisherin” ) have all been seen as possible winners. But it was Fraser who went home with the SAG Award for his comeback performance as an obese shut-in in “The Whale.”
“Believe me, if you just stay in there and put one foot in front of the other, you’ll get where you need to go,” said Fraser, who anxiously eyed the actor-shaped trophy and left the stage saying he was going to go look for some pants for him.
The SAG Awards are considered one of the most reliable Oscar bellwethers. Actors make up the biggest percentage of the film academy, so their choices have the largest sway. Last year, “CODA” triumphed at SAG before winning best picture at the Oscars, while Ariana DeBose, Will Smith, Jessica Chastain and Troy Kotsur all won at a SAG Award before taking home an Academy Award.
After the SAG Awards, presented by the film and television acting guild SAG-AFTRA, lost their broadcast home at TNT/TBS, Netflix signed on to stream Sunday’s ceremony. Next year’s show will be on Netflix, proper.
Sunday’s livestream meant a slightly scaled-down vibe. Without a broadcast time limit, winners weren’t played off. A regal and unbothered Sam Elliott, winner for male actor in a TV movie or limited series for “1883,” spoke well past his allotted time. The show sped through early winners, including awards for Jean Smart (“Hacks”), Jeremy Allen White (“The Bear”) and Jason Bateman (“Ozark”).
Another streaming effect: No bleeping.
Quinta Brunson and Janelle James of “Abbott Elementary” kicked off the ceremony with a few opening jokes, including one that suggested Viola Davis, a recent Grammy winner, is beyond EGOT status and has transcended into “ShEGOTallofthem.”
Brunson later returned to the stage with the cast of “Abbott Elementary” to accept the SAG award for best ensemble in a comedy series. Brunson, the sitcom’s creator and one of its producers, said of her castmates, “These people bring me back down to Earth.”
“The White Lotus” also took a victory lap, winning best ensemble in a drama series and another win for Jennifer Coolidge, coming off her wins at the Emmys and the Golden Globes. A teary-eyed Coolidge traced her love of acting to a first-grade trip to see a Charlie Chaplin film. She then thanked her date, a longtime friend, the actor Tim Bagley.
“You’re a wonderful date tonight,” said Coolidge. “I can’t wait until we get home.”
The ceremony’s first award went to a winner from last year: Jessica Chastain. A year after winning for her lead performance in the film “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” Chastain won best female actor in a TV movie or limited series for Showtime’s country music power couple series “George & Tammy.” Chastain jetted in from previews on the upcoming Broadway revival of “A Doll’s House.”
One award was announced ahead of the show from the red carpet: “Top Gun: Maverick” won for best stunt ensemble. Though some have cheered that blockbusters like “Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water” are best picture nominees at this year’s Oscars, the indie smash “Everything Everywhere All at Once” increasingly looks like the biggest blockbuster at this year’s Academy Awards.
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