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Indie films shine in award competition

THE BALTIMORE SUN

In further solidification of 1996 as the year of the independent film, the lion's share of Screen Actor Guild Award nominations announced yesterday went to performers in small pictures made outside the major studios.

Nods went to the casts of "The English Patient," "Marvin's Room," "Shine," "Sling Blade" and "The Birdcage" and to many of the actors who starred in those films. Of the eight films given multiple nominations, only two ("The Birdcage" and "Jerry Maguire") were the products of major studios (MGM/UA and Columbia/TriStar, respectively).

In all, Miramax films captured 11 nominations, the most of any production company. Columbia/TriStar came in a distant second with five nods. The four other majors -- Disney, Universal, Paramount and Warner Bros. -- came up empty-handed.

Actors honored for individual performances include Tom Cruise ("Jerry Maguire"), Geoffrey Rush ("Shine"), Woody Harrelson ("The People Vs. Larry Flynt"), Brenda Blethyn ("Secrets & Lies"), Frances McDormand ("Fargo") and Gena Rowlands ("Unhook the Stars").

Billy Bob Thornton, nominated for best acting performance by a male lead for "Sling Blade," said he was honored to be recognized in a category with Cruise, Harrelson and the others.

"I feel like the guy in 'Wayne's World' that says 'I'm not worthy!' " he said. "To be in the company of people like this I think I'm going to cut my tongue so I can just make noise, because I don't know what to say."

Blethyn, Rush and Cruise were also awarded Golden Globes on Sunday by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Their recognition by SAG could indicate Oscar nominations next month. Both Madonna and Courtney Love, whose names have been bandied about as Oscar contenders, were missing from the list of guild nominees.

In television, guild voters honored the casts of the dramas "Chicago Hope," "ER," "Law & Order," "NYPD Blue" and "The X-Files." In the comedy category, nods went to "3rd Rock From the Sun," "Frasier," "Mad About You," "Remember WENN" and "Seinfeld."

NBC gathered the most nominations -- 16. CBS and ABC both garnered five; Fox and HBO each grabbed three.

The guild will also honor Angela Lansbury with a lifetime achievement award at its Feb. 22 ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium downtown.

The show will be televised on NBC.

Pub Date: 1/24/97

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