Academy Awards contender "Mystic River" and art house hit "The Station Agent" led the field going into the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the last major film honors before the Oscars.
"Mystic River" and "The Station Agent" had three nominations each for Sunday's 10th annual guild awards.
Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, the favorites for the best-actor and supporting-actor Oscars, both had guild nominations for "Mystic River," which also was competing for best ensemble cast.
"The Station Agent," shut out in the Oscar race, earned guild nominations for lead actor Peter Dinklage and lead actress Patricia Clarkson, plus an ensemble nomination.
Competing against Penn and Dinklage for best actor at the guild awards were Johnny Depp, "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl"; Ben Kingsley, "House of Sand and Fog"; and Bill Murray, "Lost in Translation."
Besides Clarkson, best-actress nominees were Diane Keaton, "Something's Gotta Give"; Charlize Theron, "Monster"; Naomi Watts, "21 Grams"; and Evan Rachel Wood, "thirteen."
Oscar front-runner "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" had just one nomination for the guild awards, for best film ensemble.
The film's lack of individual acting nominations was in line with the past record of the "Lord of the Rings" franchise, which has been largely overlooked in the performance categories. The film leads Oscar contenders with 11 nominations and is considered a virtual shoo-in for the best-picture prize.
The ensemble award generally is considered the guild's equivalent of a best-picture prize, though the winner has gone on to take the top Oscar only three times in the eight years since the guild added that category.
The guild awards are a solid barometer for how acting categories might play out at the Oscars. Most guild nominees also are competing for acting Oscars at the academy ceremony next Sunday.
However, only one of last year's four guild winners _ Catherine Zeta-Jones as supporting actress for "Chicago" _ went on to win the Academy Award.
Guild nominees were chosen by 4,200 randomly selected union members. The union's full membership of 98,000 was eligible to vote for winners.
The guild was presenting its lifetime-achievement award to 91-year-old Karl Malden, an Academy Award winner as supporting actor for "A Streetcar Named Desire."