LOS ANGELES -- "Boyhood" might be the darling of the critics' awards, but when it came down to performances alone, the dark show-business comedy "Birdman" soared with a leading four Screen Actors Guild Award nominations, including best ensemble cast.
"Birdman" lead Michael Keaton was recognized for his work as the washed-up Hollywood hero Riggan Thomson. Emma Stone, who played Thomson's troubled daughter, and Edward Norton, as an arrogant theater star, also picked up supporting nods.
"An ensemble like this hardly ever comes around, and all of us made this very unique film work - (led) by our maestro, director Alejandro Irritu," said Keaton in a statement.
Following with three nominations each were the coming-of-age tale "Boyhood," the Alan Turing biopic "The Imitation Game," and the Stephen Hawking story "The Theory of Everything." All were recognized for their ensemble casts and individual performances.
Conspicuously absent from the SAG nominations were Ava DuVernay's civil rights drama "Selma," and Angelina Jolie's Louis Zamperini film "Unbroken." Neither has been released, but both have been hailed as solid Oscar contenders.
Their luck could change, though, when the Golden Globes nominations are announced Thursday.
"Boyhood" has been on a hot streak recently, winning top honors with most of the major critics' awards, but its small cast faded opposite the star-studded "Birdman." Still, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke both earned nods Wednesday for their performances which spanned the groundbreaking 12-year shoot.
"The Theory of Everything," a romance-spanning look at the lives of Stephen and Jane Hawking, had lead acting nominations for Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.
The other true-life British genius biopic, "The Imitation Game," landed Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley nominations for their portrayals of World War II-era British logicians Alan Turing and Joan Clarke.
Cumberbatch also was recognized for his television work in "Sherlock: His Last Vow."
Wes Anderson's candy-colored fable "The Grand Budapest Hotel" received a single nod for its large ensemble cast, including Norton and Adrien Brody, who also pulled a nomination for History's "Houdini."
Notably, Bennett Miller's true-crime drama "Foxcatcher" was not singled out for its overall cast but recognized lead actor Steve Carell and supporting actor Mark Ruffalo. Ruffalo earned a second acknowledgement for HBO's "The Normal Heart."
Jake Gyllenhaal also won a lead acting nomination for his work as the sociopathic freelance reporter in the Los Angeles noir "Nightcrawler."
Lead actress film nominees joining Felicity Jones are Julianne Moore as an Alzheimer's patient in "Still Alice"; Reese Witherspoon in the soul-searching drama "Wild"; Rosamund Pike as the missing wife in the thriller "Gone Girl"; and a dressed-down Jennifer Aniston in "Cake."
In the supporting category, Oscar favorite J.K. Simmons snagged a spot for playing the drill sergeant jazz instructor in "Whiplash." But other supporting nominations were a bit of a surprise.
Robert Duvall was recognized for the middling courtroom drama "The Judge," Meryl Streep for the adaption of musical "Into the Woods" and Naomi Watts for "St. Vincent." Watts is also part of the "Birdman" ensemble.
The SAG Awards will be presented Jan. 25 when Debbie Reynolds will be honored with a lifetime achievement award.
The Guild Awards pave the way to the Academy Awards on Feb. 22. Oscar nominations will be announced Jan. 15.
In television, HBO led the way with 10 nominations, while Netflix, ABC and Showtime all got five.
Sitcom "Modern Family" received the most individual nominations with four.
Besides the ABC show, other ensemble comedy nominees include "The Big Bang Theory," ''Brooklyn Nine-Nine," ''Orange is the New Black" and "Veep." Ensemble drama nominees were "Downton Abbey," ''Homeland," ''Boardwalk Empire," ''Game of Thrones" and "House of Cards."
'Birdman' leads Screen Actors Guild nominations