LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Small-town dramedy “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” led the 2018 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) nominations on Wednesday in a list that shut out celebrated veterans like Meryl Streep and Daniel Day-Lewis as well as Steven Spielberg’s press freedom movie “The Post.”

“Three Billboards” got a leading four nods, including for SAG’s top prize for best movie ensemble.

The black comedy about an angry woman, played by best actress nominee Frances McDormand, seeking justice for her murdered daughter will compete with interracial romance “The Big Sick,” racial thriller “Get Out,” mother-daughter comedy “Lady Bird” and period race drama “Mudbound.”

Wednesday’s list was sharply at odds with the Golden Globe nominations announced on Monday, where fantasy romance “The Shape of Water” earned a leading seven nods, followed by “The Post,” starring Streep and Tom Hanks, with six.

Instead, SAG members recognized performers in small, independent films that focused on women and people of color, throwing wide open the race for the Oscars in March – the highest awards in the movie industry.

The SAG awards are seen as one of the best indicators of likely Oscar success because actors form the largest voting body in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The SAG winners will be announced at ceremony in Los Angeles on Jan. 21, two days before Oscar nominations on Jan 23.

British actor Daniel Day Lewis, a three-time Oscar winner who announced his retirement from acting earlier this year, also failed to make the cut with SAG voters, along with his upcoming and final movie “Phantom Thread” about a perfectionist British dressmaker.

British World War Two movie “Dunkirk”, which had been seen as a big player at the Oscars, was also ignored by SAG voters.

Instead, the best actor lineup recognized relative newcomers like Timothee Chalamet, 21, for gay romance “Call Me By Your Name,” and Daniel Kaluuya for “Get Out.” They will compete with James Franco for comedy “The Disaster Artist”, Gary Oldman for his role as British wartime leader Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour,” and Denzel Washington for “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

The best actress lineup comprised Judi Dench for period royal drama “Victoria and Abdul”, Sally Hawkins for her role as a mute cleaner in “The Shape of Water,” Australian Margot Robbie for ice-skating mockumentary “I, Tonya,” and Saoirse Ronan for “Lady Bird.”

SAG also hands out prizes for television, with “Big Little Lies,” supernatural mystery “Stranger Things” and female wrestling series “Glow” picking up four nominations each.

Best TV drama ensemble nominees were British royal saga “The Crown,” medieval fantasy “Game of Thrones,” dystopian thriller “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Stranger Things,” and family show “This is Us.”

The TV comedy best ensemble race will comprise of ”black-ish,“ ”Curb Your Enthusiasm,“ ”Glow,“ ”Orange is the New Black, and “Veep.”

Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy and Jill Serjeant; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Nick Zieminski

News Reporter

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