Sizing Up Contenders as SAG Voting Begins

Clayton Davis
·4 min read

Voting for the Screen Actors Guild Awards, which are vitally important to an Oscar campaign and its trajectory, officially opened on Jan. 11. Since the guild began handing out statuettes in 1994, they have become a strong barometer for the Academy Awards in the best acting and picture categories.

Among performers, only three actors have won an acting Oscar without receiving a SAG Award nomination: Marcia Gay Harden (2001’s “Pollock”), Christoph Waltz (2012’s “Django Unchained”) and Regina King (2018’s “If Beale Street Could Talk”). Nominations are determined by a randomly selected nominating committee of 2,500 members from both the film and television sides.

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So what can we expect from the group this year? Unlike AMPAS, which determines which category an actor can be voted in, SAG honors the studio’s placement.

For the leading men, two names feel well suited for nominations: Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) and Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”), the latter having never won a SAG Award, as they didn’t exist when he won his Oscar for 1991’s “The Silence of the Lambs.”

For the leading women, this award will have the most impact in determining the Oscar nominees. About a dozen actors are vying for five slots; at the moment, only Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”), who leads in the critics’ awards, seems to have an assured road to a nomination.

All eyes will be on Zendaya (“Malcolm & Marie”), who tackles her most mature outing yet opposite John David Washington, who will be contending for a lead actor spot. Sam Levinson’s film is an actor’s piece that will speak to performers and filmmakers alike, and it could be one of the last-minute entries making an impression.

SAG is also kind to veterans of Hollywood’s golden age whom it couldn’t nominate during their prime. That could help Sophia Loren (“The Life Ahead”). Supporting actor is also a very fluid category, one known for curveballs that translate to Academy recognition (e.g., John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone” and James Coburn in “Affliction”). Paul Raci (“Sound of Metal”) fits that bill of discovery. The veteran nods could equally go to several others, from Bill Murray (“On the Rocks”) to David Strathairn (“Nomadland”) to LAFCA winner Glynn Turman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”). There are also many actors from large ensembles hoping for love, particularly Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Rylance (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”) and Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom Jr. (“One Night in Miami”). The category is kind to child actors, so watch out for the charm of Alan S. Kim (“Minari”) to win over voters.

Supporting actress tends to fall in line more often, and given the perceived slim pickings this year, perhaps that will open things up for inspired choices, such as Swankie (“Nomadland”) or Valerie Mahaffey (“French Exit”). Expect the usual suspects, like Olivia Colman (“The Father”) and Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”). This will also be the test for hopefuls — like Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”) and Saoirse Ronan (“Ammonite”) — in films that received a mixed critical reception.

Here are the collective SAG awards predictions below.

Visit the individual category pages for commentary and rankings.

Best performance by a male actor in a leading role in a motion picture

  • Riz Ahmed as Ruben in “Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios)

  • Chadwick Boseman as Levee in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)

  • Anthony Hopkins as Anthony in “The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics)

  • Delroy Lindo as Paul in “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix)

  • Steven Yeun as Jacob in “Minari” (A24)

Best performance by a female actor in a leading role in a motion picture

  • Viola Davis as Ma Rainey in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)

  • Vanessa Kirby as Martha in “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)

  • Sophia Loren as Madame Rosa in “The Life Ahead” (Netflix)

  • Frances McDormand as Fern in “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

  • Carey Mulligan as Cassandra in “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

Best performance by a male actor in a supporting role in a motion picture

  • Chadwick Boseman as Stormin’ Norman in “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix)

  • Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman in “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)

  • Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah” (HBO Max/Warner Bros.)

  • Leslie Odom Jr as Sam Cooke in “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)

  • Glynn Turman as Toledo in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)

Best performance by a female actor in a supporting role in a motion picture

  • Maria Bakalova as Tutar in “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Studios)

  • Ellen Burstyn as Elizabeth in “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)

  • Olivia Colman as Anne in “The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics)

  • Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies in “Mank” (Netflix)

  • Helena Zengel as Johanna Leonberger in “News of the World” (Universal Pictures)

Best performance by a cast ensemble in a motion picture

  • “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix)

  • “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)

  • “Minari” (A24)

  • “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)

Best performance by a stunt ensemble in a motion picture

  • “The Midnight Sky” (Netflix)

  • “Mulan” (Disney Plus)

  • “The Old Guard” (Netflix)

  • “Tenet” (Warner Bros.)

  • “Wonder Woman 1984” (HBO Max/Warner Bros.)

(Awards Circuit Winners Chart (2020-2021)

2021 SAG Awards Predictions (Film)

2021 Academy Awards Predictions

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