Awards season begins: Some surprises among SAG Award nominees

"Trumbo" led in numbers, and "Spotlight" held the spotlight, but some surprising picks -- including "Straight Outta Compton," Sarah Silverman and 9-year-old Jacob Tremblay -- earned some limelight when the nominations for the 22nd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards were announced Wednesday morning.

The nominations were spread fairly evenly among films up for outstanding performance by a cast -- the SAG Awards' equivalent of Oscar's best picture -- with "Trumbo" earning three nods and "Spotlight," "The Big Short" and "Beasts of No Nation" picking up two each.

Also getting two nominations: "Room," "Steve Jobs," "Carol" and "The Danish Girl."

"Straight Outta Compton," the hit film about rap group N.W.A, received the fifth slot in the cast category, outdoing films such as "Joy," "Steve Jobs" and "The Martian."

The SAG Awards are considered one of the bellwethers of "awards season," when a number of groups hand out honors for the best films of the year. The Golden Globe nominations come out Thursday.

The biggest of them all, the Academy Award nominations, will be announced January 14.

"Spotlight," about the Boston Globe's investigation of allegations of sexual abuse by priests, has been anointed an Oscar front-runner, thanks to honors from a variety of critics' groups. Besides its nod for ensemble, the film got a supporting actress nod for Rachel McAdams. However, its other cast members, including Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo, weren't selected in either the lead actor or supporting actor categories.

"Trumbo" did well by its ensemble, with Bryan Cranston -- who plays screenwriter Dalton Trumbo -- picking up a lead actor nomination and co-star Helen Mirren, as gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, receiving a supporting actress nod.

Mirren is also up in the lead actress category for her performance in "Woman of Gold."

Other lead actor nominees are Leonardo DiCaprio ("The Revenant"), Michael Fassbender ("Steve Jobs"), Eddie Redmayne ("The Danish Girl") and Johnny Depp ("Black Mass").

Matt Damon -- highly touted for "The Martian" -- did not make the cut.

Surprising selections

But the SAG Award nominations also stood out for some selections that were off the experts' radar.

Longtime comedian Sarah Silverman, who plays a woman struggling with mental illness in "I Smile Back," earned a lead actress nomination.

Other nominees in the category are Mirren, Cate Blanchett ("Carol"), Brie Larson ("Room") and Saoirse Ronan ("Brooklyn"), all of whom have been on handicappers' lists.

Supporting actor nominees are Idris Elba ("Beasts of No Nation"), Christian Bale ("The Big Short"), Mark Rylance ("Bridge of Spies"), Michael Shannon ("99 Homes") and Jacob Tremblay ("Room").

Though Tremblay, who plays a child who has known only the life of a captive in a room with his mother, has been praised for his performance, his nomination came as a surprise in a year when "Spotlight's" Michael Keaton, "Love and Mercy's" Paul Dano and "Creed's" Sylvester Stallone were highly touted.

Shannon, who plays a nasty businessman in the little-seen but well-reviewed "99 Homes," was well down a list of possible nominees on's board.

Elba picked up a second nomination for his TV work, as the lead in the crime drama "Luther."

The nominees for best film supporting actress are Mirren, Rooney Mara ("Carol"), Alicia Vikander ("The Danish Girl"), Kate Winslet ("Steve Jobs") and Rachel McAdams ("Spotlight").

TV picks

The SAG Awards also give honors to television shows.

Nominees for best dramatic ensemble are "Downton Abbey," "Game of Thrones," "Homeland," "House of Cards" and "Mad Men."

"Mad Men's" Jon Hamm, "Game of Thrones' " Peter Dinklage and "House of Cards' " Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey earned nominations for their performances.

On the comedy side, the ensemble nominations went to "The Big Bang Theory," "Key and Peele," "Modern Family," "Orange Is the New Black," "Transparent" and "Veep."

"Orange's" Uzo Aduba earned an acting nomination, as did "Big Bang's" Jim Parsons, "Transparent's" Jeffrey Tambor and "Veep's" Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Carol Burnett will receive SAG-AFTRA's highest tribute, the SAG Life Achievement Award.

The SAG Awards are presented by SAG-AFTRA, the performing actors' union. The actors' branch is the largest of the groups voting for the Academy Awards, so the SAG Awards are seen by many experts as a guide to possible Oscar nominations.

With that the case, such overlooked performers as Jennifer Lawrence ("Joy") and Jennifer Jason Leigh ("The Hateful Eight") might suddenly drop down in handicapping -- though they could easily come back up when the Golden Globe nominations are announced.

Timing may also be involved: According to, screeners for "Joy" barely went out before the SAG Awards deadline, and "The Hateful Eight" has only been viewable at special screenings.

Stay tuned.

The 22nd annual SAG Awards will air January 30 on TBS and TNT. Those networks are divisions of Time Warner, as is CNN.