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Los Angeles (AFP) – Historical drama “12 Years a Slave” topped nominations for the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards announced Wednesday, as Hollywood’s annual prize-giving season gets into gear.

The movie directed by Steve McQueen scored four nominations, followed by three each for “August: Osage County,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”

On the TV front, cult series “Breaking Bad” leads the race.

“12 Years a Slave” tells the story of Solomon Northup, a black man in 19th century New York state who is abducted and sold into slavery to work in the cotton fields.

Its nominations include for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture — the SAG equivalent of best picture Oscar — as well as nods for best actor for Chiwetel Ejiofor, best supporting actress for Lupita Nyong’o and best supporting actor for Michael Fassbender.

“To be recognized for a project that I feel so passionately about means a huge amount to me. For this recognition to be from my peers makes it even more poignant,” said Ejiofor, cited by industry journal Variety.

The other best film nominees are “American Hustle,” “August: Osage County,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”

Best actress nominees are Cate Blanchett for “Blue Jasmine,” Sandra Bullock for “Gravity,” Judi Dench for “Philomena,” Meryl Streep for “August: Osage County,” and Emma Thompson for “Saving Mr. Banks.”

Bullock has been widely tipped for awards season gold for playing an astronaut marooned in space with George Clooney after an accident. The visually stunning 3D movie involved ground-breaking camera work and special effects technology.

“Had I known being locked in a light box and dangling from a ceiling for hours on end would land me in the company of these extraordinary women, I would have done it years ago,” Bullock told Variety.

In the best actor race, Ejiofor is up against Bruce Dern for “Nebraska,” Tom Hanks for “Captain Phillips,” Matthew McConaughey for “Dallas Buyers Club” and Forest Whitaker for “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”

McConaughey, who plays a rodeo hustler infected with the HIV virus in a true story about early efforts to treat AIDS in the 1980s, said it was “so solid and gratifying to have this recognition from my fellow actors.”

“Cheers to what we get to do: depict humanity and ride this wild bull called acting. With thanks and respect, I’m honored with this nomination,” he said.

On the small screen, “Breaking Bad” has the most nominations with four, for best TV drama as well as best actor for Bryan Cranston for chemistry teacher turned drug lord Walter White, best actress for Anna Gunn and best stunt work.

Matt Damon and Michael Douglas are competing against each other for best actor in a mini-series of TV film, for “Behind the Candelabra,” the biopic of flamboyant entertainer Liberace which scored big at this year’s Emmy awards.

Hollywood’s awards season gets into full swing Thursday with the announcement of nominees for the Golden Globes, while nominations for the Oscars will be revealed on January 16.

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