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American Hustle won the top prize at this year’s Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Representing his co-stars, Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams and Christian Bale, actor Bradley Cooper praised film director David O. Russell.

As actors form the biggest voting bloc in the Oscars, the SAG awards are seen as a key indicator for that ceremony.

Last year, the guild chose hostage drama Argo for its top honor, with that film going on to receive the Academy Award for best picture.

However, this year’s field is more competitive – with 12 Years a Slave and Gravity expected to give American Hustle‘s A-list cast a run for their money when the Oscars roll around on 2 March.

Newcomer Lupita Nyong’o, who plays an abused plantation worker in 12 Years a Slave, was given the best supporting actress award by SAG voters.

The Kenyan actress also thanked her director, British film-maker Steve McQueen, “for taking a flashlight and shining it underneath the floorboards of this nation and reminding us what it is we stand on”.

Both best actor and best supporting actor went to the stars of Dallas Buyers Club, a small film that cost just $4 million to make.

American Hustle won the top prize at this year’s Screen Actors Guild Awards

American Hustle won the top prize at this year’s Screen Actors Guild Awards

The film is based on the true story of a homophobic Texan who gets AIDS and smuggles unapproved anti-HIV drugs into the US in the 1980s.

Matthew McConaughey, in the lead role, and Jared Leto both endured dramatic weight loss to play their parts.

Cate Blanchett took home the best actress prize for her complex, cracked portrayal of a socialite fallen on hard times in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine.

It was Cate Blanchett’s 17th best actress prize of the awards season – and she is considered a near-certainty for the trophy at both the BAFTAs and Oscars.

The SAG Awards also recognize actors working in TV, with sitcom Modern Family winning best ensemble in a comedy series and best male actor in a comedy series for Ty Burrell’s dumb-but-loveable patriarch Phil Dunphy.

Accepting the show’s cast award – its fourth in a row – Colombian star Sofia Vergara said the honor was “mind-blowing”, adding: “I can barely speak English.”

Breaking Bad, which left TV screens last year, continued its victory lap around the awards shows, winning outstanding dramatic cast and for best lead actor Bryan Cranston, for his indelible performance as teacher-turned-meth dealer, Walter White.

Maggie Smith and Helen Mirren won best actress awards for Downton Abbey and the TV movie Phil Spector respectively.

Michael Douglas picked up a best actor prize in the TV category for his performance as Liberace in the movie Behind The Candelabra, which was only shown on cable channel HBO.

The lifetime achievement award was given to Rita Moreno, the 81-year-old actress who played Anita del Carmen in West Side Story, alongside roles in Singin’ in the Rain and The King and I, and on Broadway in The Ritz and The Odd Couple.

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Argo, Iran hostage drama directed by Ben Affleck, has won the top honor for overall cast performance at 2013 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards.

Jennifer Lawrence took the best actress award for her role in Silver Linings Playbook, while Daniel Day-Lewis was named best actor for Lincoln.

Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Hathaway won the supporting actor awards for Lincoln and Les Miserables respectively.

ITV’s Downton Abbey also picked up a prize for best TV drama series cast.

Argo beat Les Miserables, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook to win the top award.

“This has nothing to do with me,” said BenAffleck, who both directed and starred in Argo.

“It has to do with the incredible people who were in this movie.”

The prize came a day after Argo won the top honor at the Producers Guild Awards, the winner of whose best film prize often goes on to win best picture at the Oscars.

Ben Affleck’s film tells the fact-based story of how US diplomats stranded in Tehran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution were spirited out of the country.

Ben Affleck’s Argo has won Outstanding Performance By A Cast In A Motion Picture Award at SAG 2013

Ben Affleck’s Argo has won Outstanding Performance By A Cast In A Motion Picture Award at SAG 2013

As he accepted his award for best actor on Sunday, Day-Lewis remarked that “it was an actor that murdered Abraham Lincoln”.

“Somehow it is only so fitting that every now and then an actor tries to bring him back to life again,” he went on.

In the television categories Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey were named best comedy actor and actress for 30 Rock, giving Baldwin his seventh consecutive SAG win.

The prize for best ensemble comedy series cast went to Modern Family.

The TV drama acting prizes were given to Bryan Cranston for Breaking Bad and Claire Danes for Homeland.

Julianne Moore’s turn as former Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin in Game Change earned her the award for best actress in a movie or miniseries, with Kevin Costner receiving the equivalent best actor honor for Hatfields & McCoys.

Veteran actor Dick Van Dyke, star of Mary Poppins and Diagnosis Murder, was presented with the guild’s life achievement award.

After waiting on stage for a prolonged standing ovation to end, Dick Van Dyke, 87, said: “That does an old man a lot of good.”

Other winners at the Producers Guild Awards on Saturday included Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph, which won the animation category, and Searching for Sugar Man, which took the documentary prize.

Homeland also won the award for best television drama series, while Modern Family was named best comedy series for a third consecutive year.

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