“Everything Everywhere All at Once’s” sweep at Sunday’s Screen Actors Guild Awards ensured the end of one long-running streak: For the first time in 20 years, there won’t be a single acting sweeper during Oscar season.
Sweeps of the acting categories across the televised awards — Golden Globes, Critics Choice, SAG, BAFTAs and the Oscars — have become increasingly common over the years after BAFTA became an Oscar precursor 22 years ago. Even in very chaotic seasons, there has been at least one category over the past 19 years with a full sweep, like Best Supporting Actor with Heath Ledger (2008’s “The Dark Knight”) or two years ago with Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”).
Heading into the SAG Awards, Cate Blanchett (“TÁR”) was the only performer left who could win all four televised precursors en route to the Oscar after having claimed the drama actress Golden Globe, Critics Choice Award and BAFTA. But she lost SAG to Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”), who notched her first head-to-head victory over Blanchett after having won her Globe in the comedy/musical actress category. Blanchett was going for her second Best Actress sweep after having accomplished it for “Blue Jasmine” (2013). She was the only performer that year who won all five awards.
Blanchett having been the last possible sweeper standing may have come as a surprise to some as the Best Actress race has long been viewed as a tight battle between her and Yeoh. That and the person most thought would go five for five saw his run interrupted last week: Yeoh’s onscreen hubby Ke Huy Quan lost the BAFTA to Barry Keoghan (“The Banshees of Inisherin”) after having pocketed the Globe and Critics Choice Award. But he rebounded at SAG with a widely expected win.
SEE Full list of SAG Awards winners
His fellow supporting Globe and Critics Choice winner who stumbled at BAFTA, Angela Bassett, was not as lucky. The “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” star was also expected to recover from her BAFTA defeat to Kerry Condon (“The Banshees of Inisherin”) with a stateside victory from her peers, but she failed to do the thing. Instead, “Everything Everywhere” scored an upset win for Jamie Lee Curtis, making the film the first one to earn three individual statuettes and the first to win four total as it also took the ensemble prize.
And seemingly no one can build on momentum in the Best Actor race. A week after upsetting Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”) at BAFTA, Austin Butler (“Elvis”) fell to Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”) at SAG. This is a repeat of last month when Fraser prevailed at Critics Choice five days after Farrell and Butler took home the comedy/musical and drama actor Globes, respectively.
Twenty years ago, the person who came came closest to sweeping was Catherine Zeta-Jones (“Chicago”), who won Best Supporting Actress at Critics Choice, SAG, BAFTA and the Oscars. She probably would’ve won the Globe, which went to Meryl Streep (“Adaptation”), except the Hollywood Foreign Press Association placed her in comedy/musical actress, which went to her co-star Renee Zellweger.
Zellweger also garnered the SAG Award, but she lost the Best Actress Oscar “by a nose” to Nicole Kidman (“The Hours”), who had won the drama Globe and BAFTA. They were bested at Critics Choice by Julianne Moore, who was a double Oscar nominee in lead for “Far From Heaven” and supporting for “The Hours.”
Like Kidman, Best Supporting Actor champ Chris Cooper (“Adaptation”) also won three of the five awards: Globe, Critics Choice and Oscar. BAFTA and SAG went to Christopher Walken for “Catch Me If You Can.”
And in the most exciting result of all, Adrien Brody pulled off a shocker in Best Actor for “The Pianist” with none of the four precursors in his pocket. The Globes awarded Jack Nicholson (“About Schmidt”) in drama and Richard Gere (“Chicago”) in comedy/musical, the latter of whom was Oscar-snubbed. Nicholson and Daniel Day-Lewis (“Gangs of New York”) tied at Critics Choice, but the latter went on to win SAG and BAFTA, making him the slight favorite going into the Oscars.
SEE Experts slugfest: SAG Awards recap — what does ‘Everything Everywhere’s historic sweep mean for the Oscars?
Perhaps not coincidentally, that Oscar ceremony was the last one held in the former late March slot — in this case, March 23, 2003. The following year, the Oscars were moved to late February (or early March in Winter Olympics years), where the ceremonies remained until three years ago when it was bumped up to Feb. 9, 2020. Then, of course, COVID-19 happened, and the last two ceremonies were on April 25, 2021, and March 27, 2022.
The Oscars moving up one month to February, obviously, shrunk the calendar, forcing precursors to basically be on top of one another and creating an environment conducive to rubber-stamping. The 2010s kicked off with a few seasons coming close to a 20/20 sweep of the awards. The class of 2014 nearly pulled it off at 19/20, with Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”) missing the Best Actor Critics Choice Award, which went to Michael Keaton (“Birdman”).
The class of 2017 was the first to go 20/20 with “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’s” Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell taking lead and supporting prizes, Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”) dominating Best Actor and Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”) cleaning up in Best Supporting Actress. Two years later, the class of 2019 achieved it with Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”), Zellweger (“Judy”), Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”) and Laura Dern (“Marriage Story”) absolutely cruising through the shortest Oscar season ever.
In the COVID era with the re-extended calendar, the first year went 12/20 and last year went 17/20. The 12/20 match was the lowest since the class of 2008 when, as aforementioned, Ledger was the sole sweeper. That year also had category weirdness with Kate Winslet winning three awards in supporting and two, including the Oscar, in lead for “The Reader.” Last year, the only sweepers were Best Actor winner Will Smith (“King Richard”) and Best Supporting Actress champ Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”).
With SAG-AFTRA going full A24 this year between “Everything Everywhere” and “The Whale,” this also marks the first time that SAG and BAFTA have had zero crossover in their four acting winners. The lack of sweeps might be unbearable for stans of a performer/performance to sit through for the next two weeks (except for Quan, who’s arguably the safest for the Oscar), but isn’t this the way it should be? There are tons of incredible performances every year worthy of recognition and — no shade to anyone who has swept or will sweep in the future (because you know that will definitely happen again) — it feels dubious and unfortunate for so many groups to be in lockstep so frequently when we often don’t even agree with our friends on who was the “best.” Plus, we’ve gone into the Oscars so many times in recent years confident in who some, if not all, of the acting winners will be that there’s little excitement or suspense. Now we have at least three ostensibly close categories that could be nail-biters until the bitter end, and that’s why they call it a race.
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