The race for the Oscars entered its home stretch with the five films nominated for best picture clustered as closely as ever after the Screen Actors Guild selected the cast of Gosford Park as the top performers in a film.
SAG, with some 98,000 member actors and actresses, picked Russell Crowe as the top male actor in A Beautiful Mind, in which he plays genius mathematician John Forbes Nash, who battled schizophrenia throughout his life.
The night's big surprise winner was Halle Berry, who claimed the SAG award for best female actor.
Berry won for her portrayal of a down-and-out waitress in the rural south in Monster's Ball, besting Sissy Spacek, who grabbed many earlier critical and industry honors for her portrayal of a grieving mother in In the Bedroom.
The gritty role was a departure for Berry, and she took a big chance with her career as an actress in one sexually explicit scene with co-star Billy Bob Thornton.
Onstage, Berry acknowledged the riskiness of her business, but said "it has paid off, big time."
Backstage, she teared up when reporters asked about her chances for an Oscar.
"You know, I don't really care what happens at the Oscars, and I don't mean to be flip about it because so many good things have come my way because of this project."
The SAG honors are the last major film awards before the Oscars, which will be awarded on March 24. Oscars are awarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and are the film industry's highest honors.
Oscar race still wide open:
Each year, shows like the SAG's give Oscar watchers an indicator of who might take home Oscars, but the early honors have been all over the map this year with Beautiful Mind, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Moulin Rouge, In the Bedroom and now Gosford Park all winning various critics' and industry honors.
Britain's Ian McKellen of Lord of the Rings was named best supporting male actor in a film. In Rings, an epic fantasy adventure based on the classic stories by J.R.R. Tolkein, McKellen portrays Gandalf, the wizard who aids the hobbit Frodo as he seeks to destroy a powerful ring whose owner could rule middle-Earth.
Helen Mirren was named best female supporting actor for her role in Gosford Park.
Along with film awards, SAG names winners in television, and broadcast network NBC proved to be the big winner with five of eight TV awards from two shows -- White House drama The West Wing and comedy Will & Grace, about the lives of a gay man, Will, and his best female friend, Grace, who is straight.
For the second straight year, West Wing swept the drama categories from its closest rival The Sopranos.
West Wing, a show that depicts the inner workings of the White House of fictional President Josiah Bartlett, claimed the honor of best ensemble cast in a television drama.