Union Hollywood stars light up red carpet

The stars were shining the night of Jan. 25 as union screen actors honored their co-workers at the 15th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards show.

The entire cast of “Slumdog Millionaire” walked off with the honor for top performance by a cast in a motion picture. Meryl Streep won the award for best performance by an actress in a leading role for the job she did in “Doubt.” Sean Penn took home the prize for best job by an actor in a leading role for his performance in “Milk.”

The dead actor, Heath Ledger, won best performance as supporting actor for his part in “The Dark Knight.”

Television stars, Hugh Laurie (“House”) and Sally Field (“Brothers and Sisters”) received awards for their performances in a drama series.

The actors of “30 Rock” literally walked away with the TV comedy prizes with Alec Baldwin winning best actor, Tina Fey best actress and the entire cast winning the award for best ensemble.

The union’s highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award, went to James Earl Jones.

This award has gone previously to well known stars including Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in 1986, Elizabeth Taylor in 1997, Ricardo Montelban in 1993, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee in 2000, Edward Asner in 2001, Clint Eastwood in 2002, Shirley Temple Black in 2005, Julie Andrews in 2006 and Charles Durning in 2007.

Jones talked with reporters from “Screen Actor,” the official magazine of the Screen Actors Guild. He emphasized how special it is when one is honored or recognized by co-workers: “So often you think, well is this a popularity contest? You can never answer that, or disprove it, really. But in this case it is the people who do the same work as you, saying that your work is really good. And that is so important.”

Those who got awards had the honor of having them presented by fellow union members who are among the biggest names in Hollywood, including Christina Applegate, Angela Bassett, Jon Hamm, John Krasinski, Eric McCormack, Kyra Sedgwick, William Shatner, Forest Whitaker, Ernest Bornine, Taye Diggs, Anthony Hopkins, Amy Poehler, Susan Sarandon and SAG President Alan Rosenberg.

The SAG is the largest union in the United States that represents actors. It has 120,000 members who work in film, TV, commercials, video games, music videos and other new media.

The Screen Actors Guild Awards show has the distinction of being the only nationally televised awards show of any kind that honors the work of union members.

The show is also unique because no other awards program in the entertainment industry in totally devoted to actors honoring actors.

Two randomly selected panels, one for television and one for film, each comprised of 2,100 SAG members from across the United States, chose this year’s nominees. The final award winners were chosen in a vote by the union’s members.