LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Dark comedy Birdman scored the most nominations for the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards, it was announced on Wednesday, with nods in four categories including best movie cast.
In what could establish it as an early awards season favourite, Birdman scored nominations for best actor, best supporting actor and best supporting actress, along with its best ensemble nod.
Coming-of-age drama Boyhood, the Stephen Hawking biographical drama The Theory Of Everything and code-breaking thriller The Imitation Game were in second place with three nods each.
All four films were nominated for best overall cast, along with comedy The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Birdman, about a former superhero movie star attempting to resurrect his career on Broadway, also topped nominations for the Independent Spirit awards announced last month, with six nods.
The 21st annual SAG awards winners will be announced on Jan 25.
The SAG nominations were announced 24 hours before the Golden Globe nominees are set to be revealed.
For best actor, Michael Keaton (Birdman) is up against Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), Eddie Redmayne (The Theory Of Everything), Steve Carell of Foxcatcher and Jake Gyllenhaal for Nightcrawler.
The Theory Of Everything also scored a best actress nod for Felicity Jones as Hawking's wife Jane in the tale of the groundbreaking physicist's early life and descent into disability with motor neurone disease.
She faces fellow nominees Jennifer Aniston (Cake), Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) and Reese Witherspoon (Wild).
In the best supporting actor category, Boyhood co-star Ethan Hawke is up against veteran Robert Duvall (The Judge), Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) and Edward Norton (Birdman).
For best supporting actress, Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) is up against Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game), Meryl Streep (Into The Woods), Naomi Watts (St Vincent) and Emma Stone (Birdman).
The movie nominations, accompanied by shortlists in eight TV categories, were announced at a pre-dawn ceremony in Los Angeles by actors Ansel Elgort and Eva Longoria.
On the small screen, Modern Family scored the most nominations with four, followed by Boardwalk Empire, Game Of Thrones, Homeland and House Of Cards with three apiece.
Modern Family won nods for best comedy series as well as acting nominations for Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell and Eric Stonestreet.
For best drama ensemble, the shortlist includes Boardwalk Empire, Downton Abbey, Game Of Thrones, Homeland and House Of Cards.
The SAG nominations were the first major awards announcement of Holllywood's annual awards season, which climaxes with the Academy Awards on Feb 22.
The SAGs are an early indication of Oscars hopes, since members of the acting guild represent some 20 per cent of the 6,000-odd voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The Golden Globe nominations are set to be announced early Thursday by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA).
Although more high profile than the SAGs, the Globes are seen as less of an indicator of Academy Awards glory, since they are voted for by a relatively small group of non-US journalists, rather than by the industry itself.