Daniel Day-Lewis dedicated his Screen Actors Guild Award to Heath Ledger.
Day-Lewis, who was honored Sunday as leading actor for his performance in "There Will Be Blood," gave an acceptance speech that echoed comments he made last week about Ledger, the 28-year-old Australian actor whose death stunned Hollywood, on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
"In 'Brokeback Mountain' he was unique, he was perfect," Day-Lewis said. "That scene in the trailer at the end of the film is as moving as anything I think I've ever seen."
Backstage, the 50-year-old Day-Lewis said he never met Ledger but the actor's death was all he had been thinking about recently.
"I thought he was beautiful. I just had a very strong feeling I would have liked him very much as a man," he said. "I admired him very much. I'm absolutely certain he would have done many wonderful things in his life."
Several prescription drugs were found in the apartment where Ledger's body was found Tuesday by his masseuse. The cause of death is awaiting toxicology tests.
During the awards show religious protesters gathered across the street from the Shrine Auditorium, toting signs that read, "Heath's in Hell," a reference to his "Brokeback Mountain" role in which he portrayed a gay cowboy.
"We should leave him alone and we should leave his family alone to suffer their unimaginable grief in private, and it's not going to happen," Day-Lewis said backstage. "We should just stop encouraging people to have greater and greater interest in raking over every detail, which is none of our business anyhow."
Ledger's photo from his Oscar-nominated role in 2005's "Brokeback Mountain" closed the SAG award show's in-memoriam segment.