I am so full of joy," exclaimed Life Is Beautiful star Roberto Benigni. "Every organ in my body is moving in a very bad way." The best-actor winner's sentiment—if not his phraseology—was shared by all 1,100 attendees at the fifth annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, held on March 7 at L.A.'s Shrine Auditorium. The SAG awards "have particular significance because they're given to us by our peers," said The Practice's Camryn Manheim. "And because the statue is a naked man."

Whether or not the stars went home with a nude dude, they got to act like fans. "I just saw George Costanza!" squealed Rachel Griffiths (nominated for Hilary and Jackie) after spotting former Seinfeld sidekick Jason Alexander. Miramax chieftain Harvey Weinstein stole a smoke with The X-Files' Gillian Anderson, and had a close encounter with his studio's golden girl, Gwyneth Paltrow. The best-actress winner for Shakespeare in Love marched up to him and joked, "I need liquor."

The champagne did flow during the ceremony and at the postawards party (sponsored by PEOPLE, the Entertainment Industry Foundation and Excite). Helen Hunt and 3rd Rock from the Sun's Kristen Johnston confabbed in the ladies' room. "We basically kissed each other's fashion butt," said Johnston. Tracey Ullman, voted best actress in a TV comedy series, also won biggest hair honors. "I'm going to stand under the shower," she laughed, "and melt it when I get home." But it was Ullman's U.K. compatriots—including Emily Watson and Ian McKellen—who kept the party swinging. "Americans are very aware of having to get their beauty sleep," said ER's Alex Kingston. 'But Brits don't care. We'll come to the set looking like dogs."

Julie K.L Dam
Steven Cojocaru and Monica Rizzo in Los Angeles

  • Contributors:
  • Steven Cojocaru,
  • Monica Rizzo.