By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood actors will gather to crown the best performances in film and television on Saturday as a furor over diversity in show business casts a shadow over an awards season usually marked by congratulations and red carpet fashion.
In contrast to the Oscars, where no actors of color are nominated this year for the movie industry's highest honors, performers including Idris Elba, Viola Davis, Rami Malek and the cast of hip-hop movie "Straight Outta Compton," are in the running for Screen Actors Guild (SAG) honors at a glitzy gala on Saturday.
Yet the top SAG actor prize is widely expected to go Leonardo DiCaprio for his grueling role as a fur trapper left for dead in "The Revenant." A win at SAG would cement DiCaprio's chances for his first Oscar in February since actors form the biggest group among voters at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The Screen Actors Guild does not pick a best picture winner, but instead rewards acting prowess by choosing a best ensemble cast.
Award pundits say "The Big Short," a movie about Wall Street malfeasance or "Spotlight," about a newspaper's probe of sex abuse in the Catholic Church, are likely ensemble winners, with "Straight Outta Compton," African child soldier drama "Beasts of No Nation," and Hollywood blacklist tale "Trumbo" rounding out the competition.
British actor Elba, among those snubbed by Oscar voters, has three shots at taking home a SAG statuette - as part of the "Beasts" ensemble cast, as supporting actor in the movie and for his conflicted police detective in British TV miniseries "Luther."
The women's race, however, is a less diverse affair, with rising star Brie Larson ("Room") and Ireland's Saoirse Ronan ("Brooklyn") in a close race for lead movie actress. Cate Blanchett's wealthy lesbian lover in "Carol," Helen Mirren's elderly Jewish refugee in "Woman in Gold" and comedian Sarah Silverman's dark turn in "I Smile Back" are also nominated.
Television, enjoying a golden age with bold dramas and streaming platforms that bypass traditional advertisers, more closely reflects the country's ethnic and religious diversity.
Malek, whose "Mr. Robot" who took home the Golden Globe for best TV drama series two weeks ago, is up against "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm in the best TV actor category, while Queen Latifah is seen as leading the TV movie field for her role as blues singer Bessie Smith.
Davis is favored for her second SAG award for television drama series "How to Get Away with Murder."
(Editing by Jill Serjeant and G Crosse)