Will Denzel Washington (‘Fences’) become 2nd actor to direct himself to victory at SAG Awards?

Denzel Washington went home empty handed at the Golden Globes, losing Best Film Drama Actor to Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”). But Washington is not out of the Oscar race yet. Roberto Benigni did not even receive a Golden Globe nomination for “Life is Beautiful” (1998), but after claiming the SAG Award for Best Actor, he went on to win the Oscar. What do Benigni and Washington have in common? They both helmed their films. If Washington wins he will be only the second actor to direct himself to victory.

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Despite their dual achievements, actor-directors seldom are even nominated for their individual performances at the SAG Awards, even when they’re recognized for their work behind the camera. Benigni was able to score a DGA nom and later an Oscar nom for Best Director, but lost to Steven Spielberg (“Saving Private Ryan”). However, his fellow actors rallied behind not only his performance but the difficulty in directing himself, and they awarded him for his efforts.

Mel Gibson and his film “Braveheart” (1995) were entirely snubbed by the SAG Awards despite his receiving a DGA nomination (he lost to Ron Howard for “Apollo 13”); George Clooney was nominated by the DGA and Oscars for “Good Night, and Good Luck” (2005), but wasn’t recognized by SAG for his individual supporting performance (he was nominated as part of the ensemble).

Clint Eastwood won the DGA Award for “Million Dollar Baby” (2004), but did not reap a Best Actor bid at the SAG Awards, although he did contend as part of the ensemble. Ben Affleck won the DGA Award for Argo” (2012), but was snubbed for an individual nomination at the SAG Awards, though he won as member of the cast. Both Gibson and Eastwood went onto win Best Director at the Oscars. Only Eastwood was also nominated for Best Actor by the academy.

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According to Gold Derby’s exclusive odds Washington sits in second place for Best Actor as of this writing with odds of 10/3 behind Affleck with odds of 4/9. But in a close race anything could tip the odds in Washington’s favor. Keep in mind that on top of directing his performance Washington has never actually won a SAG Award for any role, and after receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes last year and winning two Oscars (“Glory” in 1989, “Training Day” in 2001) his fellow actors may feel a sense of urgency to finally award him after four previous SAG losses: three for Best Film Actor (“The Hurricane” in 1999, “Training Day” in 2001, “Flight” in 2012) and one in 2007 as part of the ensemble of “American Gangster.”

Looking ahead to the Oscars it’s typically one or the other for actor-directors since none have competitively won both. Laurence Olivier (“Hamlet,” 1948) and Benigni won Best Actor for their self-directed performances. While Woody Allen (“Annie Hall,” 1977), Warren Beatty (“Reds,” 1981), Kevin Costner (“Dances with Wolves,” 1990) and Eastwood (“Unforgiven,” 1992 & Million Dollar Baby,” 2004) won Best Director for films in which they starred.

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