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SAG Awards Sunday Night ... and Stars Will Actually Be There

It's usually a familiar sight during Hollywood's awards season: miles of red carpet dotted with scores of superstars in their finest designer duds.

But with the Golden Globes reduced to a press conference and the fate of the Oscars still in question, Sunday's Screen Actors Guild Awards will bring the first -- and possibly only -- dose of Tinseltown glamour for an industry subdued by the writers strike.

"We're the only big-time televised awards show on TV this year, so we'll get a lot of viewers," said SAG President Alan Rosenberg. "It's kind of a bittersweet thing. Nobody wants to be in the position we're in."

Photo Essay: SAG Award Nominees

Members of the actors union have stood in solidarity with striking writers since their walkout Nov. 5. The writers union granted a waiver for the 14th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, allowing the show to go on without pickets and with union writers and the typical awards-show trappings. Writers denied waivers for the Globes and the Academy Awards.

While SAG's waiver was granted just last month, preparations for Sunday's show have been in the works for more than a year, said producer Kathy Connell. Organizers upped the glam factor this time -- not because of the strike-forced scaling-down of other kudos ceremonies, but because the show coincides with the union's 75th anniversary.

"We're going to be talking about what the guild has been through over the past 75 years," which includes strikes, she said.

"New technology is not that new," she continued. "New technology started with talkies. It started with television. It started with commercials. Now it's going to the Internet."

Studios and striking writers have been fighting over compensation for projects distributed online. Shares of Internet profits will also be central to actors' demands when their contract expires in June, Rosenberg said.

But for now, TV and film stars are excited for one of their first opportunities of the season to mingle with their colleagues and honor the year's best performances, said SAG Awards nominee Jon Tenney of TV's "The Closer." About 100,000 union members voted for winners in 13 categories.

"It's actors supporting actors. ... There's a real sense of community," Tenney said. "Obviously we're really grateful that WGA gave us a waiver."

Work began last week to transform the Shrine Auditorium into an art-deco dinner theater for the festivities. Beneath uncharacteristically stormy skies Thursday, workers installed carpet, hung curtains and prepared the place for its A-list attendees. (Because of the possibility of inclement weather Sunday, the red carpet area will have a tent, as will bleachers for fans.)

Beaded chandeliers hung just above the floor, waiting to be hoisted into place. Gold chairs with silk seat cushions stood in stacks, as did tables that would be topped with gold cloths and cutlery.

"This is unlike any other show because (the stars) have to eat on camera," said chef Alan Jackson, who created the evening's menu. "We want it to be tasty and clean -- no linguine, no meatballs."

Actors will feast on tuna nicoise, poached lamb loin and chicken pie with figs and pomegranates. Champagne and wine will be in ample supply, with more than 600 bottles set to be served.

While actors are the focus of the SAG ceremony, set to be broadcast live on TNT and TBS, union officials and studio and network executives will also be among the guests.

"It'll be an interesting dynamic in there," Rosenberg said. "Hopefully everybody will be in the mood to party."