LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Iran hostage drama "Argo" won the top prize at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, while Daniel Day-Lewis and Jennifer Lawrence took acting honors, as Hollywood celebrated its own and helped sharpen the race for Oscar glory in February.
Sunday's best ensemble cast win for "Argo" was the film's second award in two days. The win boosts the thriller's chances of winning a best picture Oscar in a race that is considered wide open.
The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) ceremony is among the most-watched during Hollywood's awards season because actors make up the largest voting group in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which chooses the Oscar winners. The SAG honors are selected by about 100,000 actors working in the United States.
SAG prizes acting over directing, screenplay writing and other skills that usually factor into the Oscar best picture choice.
On Saturday, "Argo" won the Producers Guild Award in Los Angeles on Saturday, beating "Lincoln," "Les Miserables," and "Silver Linings Playbook," which are all Academy Award best picture contenders.
"Argo," directed and starring Ben Affleck, is the true story of the rescue of U.S. diplomats stranded in Tehran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
British-born Day-Lewis, who has picked up a slew of awards for his intense portrayal of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln in "Lincoln," confirmed his status as front-runner for what would be his record third Oscar on February 24.
"It was an actor that murdered Abraham Lincoln and therefore it is sometimes only fitting that now and then an actor tries to bring him back to life again," Day-Lewis said, accepting his award.
In one of the most closely contested categories, Lawrence, 22, was chosen best lead actress for playing an outspoken young widow in "Silver Linings Playbook" over Jessica Chastain's feisty CIA agent in Osama bin Laden thriller "Zero Dark Thirty."
ONE WIN FOR 'LINCOLN'
Tommy Lee Jones, 66, won the best supporting actor trophy for his turn as radical Congressman Thaddeus Stevens in "Lincoln," beating strong competition from Robert De Niro, who played a gruff father in "Silver Linings Playbook."
Anne Hathaway, 30, won her first SAG award for her supporting role as the tragic Fantine in musical "Les Miserables."
"I got my SAG card when I was 14 ... And I have loved every single minute of my life as an actor," said Hathaway, accepting the statuette.
Lincoln," about U.S. President Abraham Lincoln's battle to end slavery, French revolution musical "Les Miserables," and comedy "Silver Linings Playbook," about a bipolar man's unlikely romance, went into Sunday's show with four nominations apiece.
"Argo" had two nominations, along with British comedy "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" about a group of seniors who retire to a ramshackle hotel in India.
SAG also handed out awards for performances in TV dramas, comedies and mini-series, and bestowed a lifetime achievement award to actor Dick Van Dyke.
In TV drama, the British cooks and countesses period show "Downton Abbey" won best ensemble cast. "Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston was named best actor and "Homeland's" Claire Danes best actress.
"Modern Family" won the best comedy cast ensemble award for a third consecutive time. Alec Baldwin won best TV comedy actor for the 8th time for his role as an egotistical executive in "30 Rock" and his co-star Tina Fey took the honors for comedy actress ahead of the show's final episode on Thursday.
(Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis, editing by Stacey Joyce)