Why Jodie Foster Learned of Her SAG Award Nomination for ‘Nell’ Only After Winning

Jodie Foster was surprised to find out she won a Screen Actors Guild Award in 1995 because she didn’t even know those awards existed.

“I found out the next morning,” she told Netflix’s Tudum in an interview about the SAG Awards’ history.

“I didn’t even know I was nominated,” recalled the actress, who won for her role in the movie Nell. Hearing about her nomination and win was surprising, like someone made a mistake.

As Kathy Connell, a founding member of the SAG Awards Committee, said, the show wasn’t well known at first.

“People would ask, ‘SAG awards, what’s that?’ It was scary because we were throwing a big party in Hollywood and didn’t know if anyone would come,” Connell said.

In addition to Foster, the first SAG Award winners were Tom Hanks for Forrest Gump, Dianne Wiest for Bullets over Broadway, and Martin Landau for Ed Wood. The ceremony was at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. Members of SAG-AFTRA voted for the winners, like they still do today.

NYPD Blue star Dennis Franz, who won SAG’s first Outstanding Male Actor in a Drama Series award, remembered fitting the ceremony between appearances at Frank Sinatra’s golf tournament with Frasier nominee Kelsey Grammer.

“At first, I thought, ‘Oh great, another award show,’” Franz said. “But then I thought, ‘This is actors honoring other actors,’ and it seemed like a good idea to me.”

Nell, directed by Michael Apted and starring Liam Neeson, Natasha Richardson, and Richard Libertini, also earned Foster her third of five Academy Award nominations. She won Oscars for The Accused (1988) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991), before the SAG Awards.

“Nell was a performance that was life-changing for me personally but wasn’t necessarily a critics’ favorite,” said Foster. “It meant a lot that fellow actors from my own guild felt moved enough to honor me at the first-ever event.”

That’s why she attended the second annual ceremony in 1996, presenting the best movie actor prize to Nicolas Cage for Leaving Las Vegas. “I wanted to acknowledge how touched I was by the previous year’s honor and to be part of a new tradition,” Foster said.

Foster also appeared at the 2019 SAG Awards to present Black Panther’s cast with the best ensemble prize — which she said is her favorite category.

“Yes, actors work in groups, and rarely is that aspect recognized,” she said.

Foster is nominated again for a SAG Award this year. She’s nominated in the supporting movie actress category for her role in Nyad.

The 30th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will be live on Netflix on Saturday, Feb. 24, at 8 p.m. ET, from the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall in Los Angeles. SAG-AFTRA announced a list of presenters that includes Idris Elba, Jessica Chastain, Erika Alexander, Emily Blunt, Fran Drescher, and Jennifer Aniston. Aniston will present Barbra Streisand with this year’s SAG Life Achievement Award.

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