Lupita Nyong'o and Jared Leto took the first honors at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, establishing each as a likely Oscar favorite
Nyong'o won best supporting actress for her performance as the singular slave Patsy in Steve McQueen's historical drama "12 Years a Slave"
Leto was honored for best supporting actor for his performance in the Texas HIV drama "Dallas Buyers Club," in which he plays the transsexual Rayon.
He dedicated the award to those who have died of AIDS and said he wanted to share the award to "the Rayons of the world."
Leto also thanked his mother, his date for the evening, for "showing me the power of dreams." He called her "the hottest date in town."
The 20th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards were being held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Coming two days after Academy Award nominations, the SAG Awards are particularly monitored for predicting Oscar momentum.
Actors make up the largest branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, so SAG members have perhaps more sway in determining Academy Awards winners than any other group.
This year, the five nominees for SAG's top honor, outstanding performance by a movie cast, are: "12 Years a Slave," ''American Hustle," ''Dallas Buyers Club," ''August: Osage County" and "Lee Daniels' The Butler."
Obviously, SAG and the academy don't always agree: Neither "August: Osage County" nor "The Butler" were nominated for best picture, and "The Butler" was snubbed entirely. The effects-heavy, sparsely peopled "Gravity" was predictably overlooked by SAG (except for a best actress nomination to Sandra Bullock), while it garnered 10 Oscar nods.
But the SAG Awards will give a window into support for Oscar favorites "12 Years a Slave" and "American Hustle." In individual honors, SAG favored "12 Years," nominating Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o. Jennifer Lawrence, for supporting actress, is the lone "American Hustle" nominee.
The SAG outstanding cast awards have lined up with Oscar best-picture winners, including "Argo," ''The King's Speech," ''Slumdog Millionaire" and "No Country for Old Men." But SAG diverged in the past with picks like "The Help," ''Inglourious Basterds" and "Little Miss Sunshine." The actors did foretell one of the biggest Oscar upsets in 2005, choosing "Crash" over "Brokeback Mountain."
The SAG Awards are one of the more collegial stops on the awards circuit, with winners almost uniformly express gratitude for an honor chosen by their peers. The speeches are often good, too, and can help stoke Oscar support.
Among the nominees Saturday night are Cate Blanchett ("Blue Jasmine"), Forest Whitaker ("Lee Daniels' The Butler"), Meryl Streep ("August: Osage County"), Tom Hanks ("Captain Phillips"), Emma Thompson ("Saving Mr. Banks") and Bruce Dern ("Nebraska"). James Gandolfini was nominated posthumously for his supporting performance in "Enough Said."
Among SAG's TV drama ensemble contenders are HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" and "Game of Thrones," AMC's "Breaking Bad," PBS's "Downton Abbey" and Showtime's "Homeland." Comedy series ensemble nominees include NBC's "30 Rock," Netflix's "Arrested Development," CBS's "The Big Bang Theory," ABC's "Modern Family" and HBO's "Veep."
SAG's lifetime achievement award will be given Rita Moreno, the 81-year-old "West Side Story" actress whose career has spanned Broadway, television and music.
Associated Press writers Beth Harris and Anthony McCartney in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jake_coyle