The cowboy love story "Brokeback Mountain" continued its drive toward a clean sweep of major Hollywood honors as it entered Sunday's Screen Actors Guild Awards as the clear favorite.
"Brokeback Mountain" led the guild's film contenders with four nominations: lead actor for Heath Ledger, supporting honors for Michelle Williams and Jake Gyllenhaal, and overall cast performance.
The film looked like an odds-on front-runner for the cast prize, the guild's equivalent of a best-picture award. The other nominees for cast performance were the film biographies "Capote" and "Good Night, and Good Luck," the ensemble drama "Crash" and the rap music tale "Hustle & Flow."
Ledger, Williams and Gyllenhaal faced strong competition for the individual acting prizes. Philip Seymour Hoffman as author Truman Capote in "Capote" beat Ledger for the dramatic-actor prize at the Golden Globes and was considered a favorite for both the guild honor and the best actor Academy Award.
Williams lost out for supporting actress at the Golden Globes to Rachel Weisz in the murder thriller "The Constant Gardener," while Gyllenhaal faced supporting-actor Globe winner George Clooney for the oil-industry saga "Syriana."
Felicity Huffman, the Globe winner for dramatic actress for the transsexual comic drama "Transamerica," was a safe bet to take the same honor at the guild awards.
Huffman, an Emmy winner last year for "Desperate Housewives," has the inside track on the best-actress Oscar for "Transamerica." She also had a guild nomination for best actress in a TV comedy series for "Desperate Housewives."
"Brokeback Mountain" led the Jan. 16 Globes with four wins, among them best dramatic film and director for Ang Lee, who took the same prize Saturday from the Directors Guild of America.
Adapted from Annie Proulx's short story about old sheepherding buddies who conceal a homosexual affair from their families, "Brokeback Mountain" also has earned top honors from key critics groups and the Producers Guild of America.
The film is positioned to become the first explicitly gay-themed movie to win best picture at the Oscars, whose nominations come out Tuesday, with the awards presented March 5.
The SAG awards are one of the last major film honors before the Oscars and have a solid record of forecasting Oscar winners. All four guild acting recipients for 2004 — Jamie Foxx for "Ray," Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman for "Million Dollar Baby" and Cate Blanchett for "The Aviator" — went on to win Oscars.
The 12th annual SAG awards also were honoring former child star Shirley Temple Black for life achievement.
Guild nominees were chosen by 4,200 randomly selected union members. The union's full membership of more than 100,000 was eligible to vote for winners.