LOS ANGELES — What a cast the Screen Actors Guild Awards have lined up: Marilyn Monroe, Laurence Olivier, Margaret Thatcher and J. Edgar Hoover.
Actors playing illustrious real-life figures factor into the 18th annual honors given by Hollywood's main acting union Sunday.
The best-actress category features Meryl Streep as Thatcher in "The Iron Lady" and Michelle Williams as Monroe in "My Week with Marilyn." Leonardo DiCaprio is up for best actor as FBI boss in "J. Edgar," while "My Week with Marilyn" co-stars supporting-actor nominee Kenneth Branagh as Olivier.
Streep won a Golden Globe for "The Iron Lady" and is considered a favorite for the SAG prize and for her third win at the Academy Awards, which are set for Feb. 26.
The front-runners for the other SAG awards are actors in fictional roles, though, among them George Clooney as a dad in crisis in "The Descendants" and Jean Dujardin as a silent-film star fallen on hard times in "The Artist." Both are up for best actor, and both won Globes — Clooney as dramatic actor, Dujardin as musical or comedy actor.
Octavia Spencer as a brassy Mississippi maid in "The Help" and Christopher Plummer as an elderly dad who comes out as gay in "Beginners" won Globes for supporting performances and have strong prospects for the same honors at the SAG Awards.
The winners at the SAG ceremony typically go on to earn Oscars. All four acting recipients at SAG last year later took home Oscars — Colin Firth for "The King's Speech," Natalie Portman for "Black Swan" and Christian Bale and Melissa Leo for "The Fighter."
The same generally holds true for the weekend's other big Hollywood honors, the Directors Guild of America Awards, where Michel Hazanavicius won the feature-film prize Saturday for "The Artist." The Directors Guild winner has gone on to earn the best-director Oscar 57 times in the 63-year history of the union's awards show.
SAG also presents an award for overall cast performance, a prize that's loosely considered the ceremony's equivalent of a best-picture honor. However, the cast award has a spotty record at predicting what will win best picture at the Oscars.
While "The King's Speech" won both honors a year ago, the SAG cast recipient has gone on to claim the top Oscar only eight times in the 16 years since the guild added the category.
The SAG ceremony also includes an award for stunt ensemble, whose nominees include such hits as "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," ''Transformers: Dark of the Moon" and "X-Men: First Class."
Airing live on TNT and TBS, the show features nine television categories, as well.
Receiving the guild's life-achievement award is Mary Tyler Moore. The prize will be presented by Dick Van Dyke, her co-star on the 1960s sit-com "The Dick Van Dyke Show."