- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 29, 2006

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Reese Witherspoon as singer June Carter in “Walk the Line” and Philip Seymour Hoffman as author Truman Capote in “Capote” won lead-acting awards last night from the Screen Actors Guild, while the ensemble drama “Crash” pulled off an upset win over “Brokeback Mountain” for the overall cast award.

Rachel Weisz of the murder thriller “The Constant Gardener” and Paul Giamatti of the boxing drama “Cinderella Man” received supporting-acting honors.

“Oh, my God, y’all. Sometimes, I can’t just shake the feeling that I’m just a little girl from Tennessee,” said Miss Witherspoon, who plays Miss Carter during her long, stormy courtship with country legend Johnny Cash. “I want to say my biggest inspiration for this movie obviously was June Carter. She was an incredible woman.”

Mr. Hoffman, considered the favorite for the best-actor Oscar, had gushing thanks for his “Capote” co-stars.

“It’s important to say that actors can’t act alone, it’s impossible. What we have to do is support each other,” he said.

“Brokeback Mountain” has been considered the best-picture front-runner at the Oscars, whose nominations come out tomorrow, with awards presented March 5. Its loss to “Crash” could prove a speed bump on the film’s path toward becoming the first explicitly homosexual-themed movie to win a best picture award at the Oscars, but “Brokeback Mountain” has dominated earlier Hollywood honors so it will likely continue to be considered the favorite.

It led the Jan. 16 Golden Globes with four wins, among them best dramatic film and director for Ang Lee, who took the same prize Saturday from the Directors Guild of America.

The guild win affirms Mr. Lee’s position as favorite for best director at the Academy Awards on March 5. He has captured more than 10 honors for his work on the film, which follows a 20-year love affair between two Wyoming ranch hands. Oscar nominations will be announced tomorrow.

The Directors Guild award is one of Hollywood’s best barometers for the Academy Awards. Only six times in the 57-year history of the guild honors has the winner failed to go on to win the directing Oscar. But Mr. Lee was one of those six, taking the guild prize for 2000 for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” while Steven Soderbergh took home that year’s best director Oscar for “Traffic.”

This year, Mr. Lee bested Steven Spielberg (“Munich”), Paul Haggis (“Crash”), Bennett Miller (“Capote”) and George Clooney (“Good Night, and Good Luck”).

“There’s no winner,” Mr. Lee said Saturday. “I think we’re all winners because we’re blessed. We’re filmmakers. What a life.”

The guild prize is particularly meaningful because it’s decided by fellow directors, Mr. Lee said. “This is like winning at home,” he said. “This is professional approval.”

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