LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The actors of gay romance "Brokeback Mountain" earned four nominations for Screen Actors Guild awards on Thursday, more than any other film, further cementing the film's position as a front-runner for Oscars.
The movie that has drawn wide critical acclaim was nominated for best cast in a film, the Screen Actors Guild's top honor, alongside race relations film "Crash," political movie "Good Night, and Good Luck," "Capote," about the author Truman Capote, and in a surprise, the drama "Hustle & Flow."
The Screen Actors Guild represents film and television actors, and because actors make up a large voting group for Oscars, the U.S. film industry's top awards, the SAG honors are considered a key indicator of which actors may win Oscars.
This year's list of nominees for best movie cast featured five low-budget movies, continuing a trend this year in which many major motion pictures have been shunned by award voters.
Moreover, several films that had been expected to compete for awards were shut out of SAG nominations including director Steven Spielberg's "Munich" and effects-filled "King Kong."
"We've had some really phenomenal performances this year," said SAG President Alan Rosenberg. "The bigger films rely on special effects, whereas these smaller films are all about the performances."
Along with best cast, "Brokeback" earned a nomination for lead actor in a film for Heath Ledger and one for supporting actor for Jake Gyllenhaal. Their co-star, Michelle Williams, was nominated for best supporting actress in a film.
ACTORS & ACTRESSES
Joining Ledger among the nominees for best movie actor were Joaquin Phoenix, playing singer Johnny Cash in romance "Walk the Line," David Strathairn as newsman Edward R. Murrow in "Good Night, and Good Luck," Philip Seymour Hoffman in the title role in "Capote" and Russell Crowe playing a boxer in "Cinderella Man."
Best film actress nominees were Judi Dench portraying a theater owner in "Mrs. Henderson Presents," Felicity Huffman as a transgendered character in "Transamerica," Charlize Theron as a sexually harassed mine worker in "North Country," Reese Witherspoon as singer June Carter in "Walk the Line" and Ziyi Zhang in romance "Memoirs of a Geisha."
Along with Gyllenhaal for "Brokeback," supporting film actor nominations went to Don Cheadle and Matt Dillon both for "Crash," George Clooney in "Syriana" and Paul Giamatti in "Cinderella Man."
Williams was joined in the supporting actress category by Catherine Keener in "Capote," Frances McDormand in "North Country," Rachel Weisz in thriller "The Constant Gardener," and Amy Adams for independent film "Junebug."
"Capote" and "Crash" earned three SAG nominations each, and "Cinderella Man," "Good Night, and Good Luck," "North Country" and "Walk the Line" all earned two nominations.
Later on Thursday, the Directors Guild of America gives out its nominations, and they also are expected to narrow the list of Oscar contenders.
SAG also gives out awards for TV performances. For its top honor of best ensemble cast in a TV drama series, SAG nominated the actors in "Grey's Anatomy," "The Closer," "Lost," "Six Feet Under" and "The West Wing."
Nominees for best ensemble cast in a TV comedy were the actors in "Arrested Development," "Boston Legal," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Desperate Housewives," "Everybody Loves Raymond," and "My Name is Earl."
The SAG awards will be given out in Los Angeles on January 29. The ceremony will be telecast on cable TV networks TNT and TBS.