LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The actors of director Steve McQueen's slavery drama "12 Years a Slave" led nominees for the Screen Actors Guild film awards on Wednesday with nods in four categories including best ensemble cast, a key indicator for the industry's best picture prizes.
Joining them in the nominees for best film ensemble cast, in four categories including best ensemble cast, a the organization's top prize, were the actors of family dysfunction drama "August: Osage County," AIDS treatment tale "Dallas Buyers Club," and the examination of civil rights in "Lee Daniels' The Butler." Each of those films garnered three nominations.
Director David O. Russell's 1970s con-artist drama "American Hustle" rounded out the ensemble cast nominations and secured two nominations, including best supporting actress for Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence.
The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards are among the most-watched honors during Hollywood's busy awards season that culminates with the Academy Awards, which will be handed out in March, because actors make up one of the largest voting groups for the Oscars.
In the best actor category, veteran Bruce Dern was nominated for his role as a crotchety old man who thinks he has won the sweepstakes in "Nebraska." He was joined by Chiwetel Ejiofor, the British actor who plays the free black man sold into slavery in Louisiana in the real-life story "12 Years a Slave."
Other best actor nominees were Oscar winner Tom Hanks as the ship captain in Somali pirate thriller "Captain Phillips," Matthew McConaughey as the straight Texas cowboy who fights for AIDS treatment in "Dallas Buyers Club," and Forest Whitaker as the White House butler witnessing the U.S. civil rights struggle in "Lee Daniels' The Butler."
The best actress award nominations were dominated by veteran actresses, like Judi Dench as the elderly Irish mother seeking the son taken from her as a teenager in "Philomena," and Meryl Streep as a bitter family matriarch in "August: Osage County," the film adaptation of an acclaimed Broadway play.
Cate Blanchett was nominated for her lead role as a socialite fallen on hard times in director Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine," while Sandra Bullock received a nod for her turn as an astronaut tumbling through space in existential thriller "Gravity." Emma Thompson rounded out the list as the embittered "Mary Poppins" author P.L. Travers in her battle with Walt Disney in "Saving Mr. Banks."
The SAG awards will be handed out in Los Angeles on January 18 and shown live on U.S. television networks TNT and TBS.
(Reporting by Mary Milliken; Editing by Vicki Allen)