The SAG Awards 2022, which honoured the top TV and film performances from the previous year on Sunday night, were the first major in-person awards ceremony conducted since the COVID-19 epidemic. Those who tuned in live saw all of the winners—from Succession to CODA—and acceptance speeches on TV, but the Awards Insider team was there to see it all firsthand. They were also able to accomplish something that has been sorely lacking this awards season: read the room to figure out who’s really on the rise, and break down what some of these surprising victories (and defeats!) could signify for those aiming to walk the stage at the Oscars in just a few weeks.
Rebecca Ford: It’s finally award season again! It was strange to be in a huge room with a couple hundred people dressed up and maskless after two years without these kinds of mega-events, but the SAG Awards made the process as safe as possible by mandating immunizations, a PCR test, and an on-site fast COVID test. I have to say that it felt quite fantastic to finally be back in a room with the people, films, and TV series we’d been covering for the last several months once we went through the drive-through testing and onto the red carpet at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica. And what a night that turned out to be! On the TV side, there were some stunning surprises as well as some intriguing outcomes that predict a very fascinating Emmy season to come. David, you and I were able to observe a number of things inside the room that the TV cameras might not have seen. How did everyone feel about being back in the same room together?
Canfield, David: I’m very sure they felt the same way we did! The SAG Awards are designed similarly to the Golden Globes—round tables for casts and nominees, food and plenty of alcohol served, mingling during commercial breaks—and with the latter show skipping a physical edition this year for a variety of reasons, this was the big, starry, in-person kickoff to awards season we’d been waiting for. So you had Billy Crudup and Bradley Cooper deep in talk, or Cate Blanchett and Julianna Margulies deep in conversation. Everyone seemed to be making their rounds, catching up with their friends and having a nice, inebriated time. It’s exactly how the SAG Awards should always feel.
I also got huge Parasite vibes from the whole audience getting progressively pulled to the tables held by Squid Game, Netflix’s ground-breaking Korean competitor that won the top two individual acting prizes for drama. We watched as A-listers mobbed upset victors Lee Jung-jae and Jung Ho-Yeon as we lingered around the main floor. Despite losing the ensemble prize to Succession, the series was the highlight of the night for many and is now entering Emmy season with tremendous momentum. It was heartening to see, among so many giants on the red carpet, new talent to Hollywood given a warm welcome. (A revealing, heartwarming backstage moment: Lee and CODA’s trailblazing supporting-actor winner Troy Kotsur ecstatically celebrating each other’s victories.)
Rebecca, what stuck out to you on the inside?
Ford: I’d say the amount of emotion in the room. Everyone was in tears! Beginning with Jung Ho-Yeon, who delivered a great acceptance speech. I’m quite sure she hadn’t stopped sobbing since she took the stage when we met her shortly after. I asked her how she was feeling, and she was plainly at a loss for words. We witnessed Michael Keaton, Will Smith, and Jessica Chastain all weep on cue during their speeches, and while I understand that actors are capable of sobbing on cue, the emotions in the room were very real. I was going around the room after the event when I noticed Lady Gaga weeping. Helen Mirren, the night’s lifetime award recipient, swiftly approached her and calmed her, but I have to admit, I haven’t seen this much emotion at an awards presentation in a long time. I’m guessing it’s a combination of the global news that’s weighing heavily on everyone (many acceptance speeches touched on the Russia-Ukraine war) and the feelings that some may be feeling after being out of the world for so long.
Before we go any further into the clip, I’d like to highlight how huge of a night this was for Squid Game. Lee Jung-jae and Jung Ho-victories Yeon’s are remarkable, especially given how difficult it was for the Parasite cast to receive little individual acting praise during that season. The fact that the actors guild chose to highlight these performances felt quite significant. And seeing Jung seated with her CAA agency, Hylda Queally — whose clients include Kate Winslet and Cate Blanchett — made me feel like we were watching her arrival in Hollywood. But enough about Squid Game, which I believe we’ll be discussing a lot in the coming months. Do you believe these findings have given us a better indication of what to expect at the Oscars, David?
Canfield: To begin, let’s look at the night’s biggest upset, Jessica Chastain. We’ve been talking about how open the lead actress is, and this… hasn’t changed our minds. Nicole Kidman appears to have needed to win here if she was going to charge for that Oscar—aside from the actors, the Academy did not care for Being the Ricardos, and SAG-AFTRA is the most welcoming audience for that picture. In terms of the other nominations, Olivia Colman has already won an Oscar despite losing the comparable SAG Award for The Favourite, while Kristen Stewart and Penelope Cruz are sure to find more supporters in the artier Academy as well. I honestly have no clue who will win, but I don’t believe it’s incorrect to label Chastain as the default soft front-runner.
Will Smith and Ariana DeBose are cruising and, barring a dramatic upset, look to be locked in for the Oscar. If such an upset occurred, BAFTA would have predicted it, so I’m not ruling out Benedict Cumberbatch or Aunjanue Ellis just yet. (The latter received such a big mention from Smith in his speech that I’m wondering whether it would draw some attention to her.) And you and I both expected this to be the point at which Troy Kotsur surpassed Kodi Smit-McPhee in the battle for best supporting actor. And he succeeded! It’s still a two-man race, but there’s a new man to beat.
If Kotsur wasn’t a great upset for us, CODA winning the ensemble prize could have been. What do you think of its victory here, Rebecca? Is this its defining moment?
Ford: I’m not convinced. I thought it was a tremendous moment for CODA to win that award tonight, but with the exception of Parasite, the SAG ensemble award has not gone to the eventual best picture Oscar winner in the last five years. Certain films, such as Nomadland from last year, simply do not make the SAG ensemble list because they aren’t ensemble-y enough. This year, it’s Power of the Dog, which was nominated for three individual acting awards but not for best ensemble. It does, however, provide a good lift to CODA, which has been gaining traction over the last month or two. It opens the possibility for an Oscar upset, and at least one source has informed me that CODA is a legitimate contender for best picture. Is this, however, enough of a boost to dethrone a projected frontrunner? There are ten films competing for best picture, creating a totally different environment from what we witnessed tonight.
We have a host of award shows coming up in the weeks leading up to the Oscars that will most likely provide us with more best picture knowledge (or maybe cause more confusion). But I was thinking that we could end our SAG Awards wrap with some of our favourite moments from the room that didn’t make it to television. I’ll admit that I enjoyed the uproar that ensued when Michael Keaton’s name was presented as the winner of the best actor in a limited series category while he wasn’t present. We happened to be nearby, and it was fairly amusing to witness Juno Temple, who was at the same table as Keaton, stare at her tablemates in disbelief that Keaton was nowhere to be found. Danny Strong, the showrunner of Dopesick, was standing nearby at a table, perplexed. Fortunately, Keaton swooped into the room just in time to take his place on stage. The drama of showbiz. David, how about you?
Canfield: It’s difficult to top that one, which exemplifies what award shows do best: Put a lot of very renowned people in a room together and see what happens. I couldn’t get enough of Martin Short’s enthusiasm throughout the evening, whether he was presenting with Only Murders co-star Selena Gomez or rushing from table to table. We were right next to the Hacks table—a group of folks who, it must be mentioned, know how to have a good time—for a bit, and Short came over to cheer them all on. He hugged younger cast members and posed for a photo with a large gathering of them. As we were leaving, we noticed him conversing with Kirsten Dunst. He was having a fantastic time. Have fun! This is an important lesson for these events. Hopefully, Hollywood can maintain its momentum. We’re back on track now that a spectacular black-tie event is behind us.