The Help cleans up at the Guilds

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The Deep South drama The Help won three prizes at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles, including best actress for Viola Davis and supporting actress for Octavia Spencer.

The Help also claimed the guild’s ensemble award, the show’s equivalent of a best-picture prize. Davis and Spencer won as black maids going public with uneasy truths about their white employers in 1960s Mississippi.

Jean Dujardin won the lead-actor honour for The Artist as a silent-film superstar whose career crumbles when the sound era arrives. Christopher Plummer won for supporting actor as an elderly father who comes out as gay in Beginners.

The wins boost the actors’ prospects for the same honours at the 26 February Academy Awards. At 82, Plummer would become the oldest actor ever to win an Oscar.

Backstage, Plummer joked about whether he would like to win an Oscar, an honour so elusive during his 60-year career that he did not even receive his first Academy Award nomination until two years ago, for The Last Station.

“Listen, we don’t go into this business preoccupied by awards. If we did, we wouldn’t last five minutes.”

Though The Help won the top prize this time, The Artist and George Clooney’s family drama The Descendants are considered stronger contenders for the best-picture Oscar.