To twist a popular line from the screenplay -- "I've never left anyone behind" -- "Argo” is apparently not leaving any awards behind. Chris Terrio added another one to the film’s trophy case by taking the award for best adapted screenplay at the 2013 Writers Guild Awards, which honor outstanding achievement in writing for film, television, radio, new media and video games.
"I'm so honored to be in the category," Terrio said of the competition for the prize, “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln,” “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” before recalling the journey that led to this accolade. "When I started this in 2008, I couldn't pay my rent and I was living in New York and I had defaulted on my student loans. I had nothing, but I had my spec scripts, and I had my Guild card. And I can't tell you how that propped me up, to know that in a very lonely profession I was in the same club as all you guys."
Terrio’s award was handed out near the end of ceremonies Sunday night at the JW Marriott L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles. He also lauded fellow WGA member and “Argo” director, producer and actor Ben Affleck, who has recently racked up honors at BAFTA, DGA and PGA, as being kind and brilliant.
“Zero Dark Thirty’s” writer Mark Boal won the award for original screenplay, which was up against those for "Moonrise Kingdom,” "Flight," "Looper" and "The Master."
"I don't agree with pitting works of art against each other -- unless of course I'm the one getting the award -- but it's really lovely to get this from the WGA," he said before showering praise on the film’s director. "Unlike Ben Affleck, [director] Kathryn Bigelow came tonight. She led us to a place of truth and beauty, and there's no higher calling for an artist. I thank her for letting me be part of that vision."
Boal and Terrio are also nominated for Oscars in their respective screenplay categories. Several of their fellow Academy Award nominees were not eligible for WGAs under the Guild guidelines, including Quentin Tarantino's already acclaimed script for “Django Unchained.”
The WGA Awards are held concurrently on both coasts -- the New York confab taking place this year at the B.B. King Blues Club -- and the East was apparently a few steps ahead of the West, as several of the winners in Los Angeles were notified by their counterparts in New York before their names were announced.
That was the case for the writing staff of HBO’s “Girls," which won the hotly contested award for new series over two other HBO offerings, “The Newsroom” and "Veep,” in a field that also included Fox’s “The Mindy Project" and ABC’s "Nashville."
The Los Angeles ceremony was hosted by actor Nathan Fillion, star of "Castle," who started things off by saying if the audience didn't know him, their moms did. "I'm the face of your words, the one who goes out into the world where I take credit for them. Actors and writers don't always see eye to eyeglasses, but agree on one thing: Producers are dicks. I will land this awards show upside down if I have to."
West Coast presenters included Julie Bowen, Jane Lynch, Jessica Chastain, Steven Spielberg, Kate Walsh, Jacki Weaver, Rico Rodriguez, Anna Gunn, Alfred Molina, Matthew Weiner, Amy Poehler, Adam Scott, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele and Tobey Maguire.
The honorary awards were especially prominent this year, and their recipients -- Tom Stoppard, Tony Kushner, Phil Rosenthal, Dan Petrie Jr. and Joshua Brand and John Falsey were referred to several times throughout the evening as inspirations.
"Breaking Bad” continued its award-winning ways by taking the best drama series writing prize from competitors that included "Mad Men," "Boardwalk Empire," "Game of Thrones" and "Homeland" -- a field that virtually defines the current golden age of television.
The comedy series trophy was also hotly tested with “Louie” winning out over last year's winner, "Modern Family," "Parks and Recreation," "Girls" and the recently retired "30 Rock.”
The WGA also recognizes individual episodes of drama and comedy, for which “Mad Men’s” Semi Chellas and Matt Weiner and “Modern Family’s” Elaine Ko took home trophies.
Two highly acclaimed longform programs took more honors, as the writers of History’s “Hatfields & McCoys” and HBO’s “Game Change” hoisted hardware.
While those wins for Ted Mann, Ronald Parker, Bill Kerby and Danny Strong might have been expected, a surprise came in the comedy/variety series category, when “Portlandia” won over “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Conan,” “Key & Peele” and “Real Time with Bill Maher.”
Perhaps the funniest line of the evening came during Fillion’s intro of a clip from one of the nominated screenplays. “It’s the story of a man who just wanted to spend a quiet evening at home with his family,” he said, as minds throughout the hotel ballroom raced to figure out to which one he was referring. ”Instead, Navy SEALS shot him in the eye.”