WGA Awards: 'Zero Dark Thirty,' 'Argo' Take Top Screenplay Honors

Zero Dark Thirty Jessica Chastain Soldiers - H 2012

Zero Dark Thirty Jessica Chastain Soldiers - H 2012

UPDATED: "Girls," "Breaking Bad" and "Louie" were among the TV winners recognized at simultaneous ceremonies held in Los Angeles and New York.

Mark Boal's Zero Dark Thirty and Chris Terrio's Argo, two movies inspired by America's involvement in the Middle East, won top honors Sunday at the 2013 Writers Guild Awards.

HBO's Girls was hailed as the best new series of the year, while the awards for drama and comedy series went to the writing staffs of, respectively, AMC's Breaking Bad and FX's Louie.

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Boal was in the midst of his acceptance speech for the original screenplay prize when he realized that Kathryn Bigelow, the film's director, had slipped into the ballroom. "Kathryn," he said, "you took this script, and you made it live and breathe and fly, and you led all of us unflinchingly and bravely to a place of truth and beauty."

In accepting his award for best adapted screenplay, a visibly nervous Terrio confessed that when he started writing Argo in 2008, "I couldn't pay my rent. I was living in New York. I 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. In a very lonely profession, I was in the same club as all you guys." He concluded by offering a special shout-out to the film's director Ben Affleck, saying, "You are a kind and brilliant and very, very good man."

Since, this year, the WGA's nominations aren't an exact match for the nominations for the two best screenplay Oscars, they don't necessarily foretell whose names will be in the envelopes at the 85th Academy Awards on Feb. 24. Boal's original screenplay, for example, will face competition from Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained and Michael Haneke's Amour, which didn't qualify for WGA consideration because they weren't written under a guild contract.

But given that Argo has been victorious at the other guilds, Terrio certainly might find himself called to the winner's podium once again. At the WGA, his adapted screenplay prevailed over three other films with Oscar nominations, including Tony Kushner's Lincoln.

Kushner, however, had his moment in the spotlight Sunday night, since he was the recipient of one of the evening's honorary awards, the Paul Selvin Award, given to the script that best embodies the sprit of the Constitution and civil liberties. Lincoln director Steven Spielberg, on hand to present the honor, said of Kushner, "He helped me to be a different kind of director than I've been."

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"I'm overwhelmed," Kushner said. He thanked Spielberg, calling him "a monumental mensch," and producer Kathleen Kennedy, "empress of the Jedi." "Constitutionally protected freedoms are what this award is about, so I'm grateful that you think Lincoln has something to say about these things. I would have screwed up terribly if Lincoln had nothing to say about these things, especially freedom."

The awards were unveiled at simultaneous ceremonies held Sunday night by the WGA West at the JW Marriott in Los Angeles and WGA East at BB King's Blues Club in New York City. But during the course of the evening, the WGA East ceremonies upstaged those in L.A. by announcing the winners in key categories before they were revealed on the West Coast.

When she took the stage to accept the award for Girls, executive producer Jenni Konner confessed that Lena Dunham, who was in New York, had texted her the news 10 minutes earlier. Expressing her gratitude to the WGA, she admitted to being a "child of the guild," since her parents were members, and "I grew up on Writers Guild health insurance," which was greeted by a round of applause.

In addition to the competitive awards, the West Coast ceremony, hosted by Nathan Fillion, handed out several other honorary prizes. Joshua Brand and John Falsey, creators of such shows as Northern Exposure and St. Elsewhere, received the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television. Daniel Petrie Jr. was presented with the Morgan Cox Award for service to the guild; and Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal was given the Valentine Davies Award for his humanitarian efforts -- which, in his case, he said, meant "writing checks."

Actor Alfred Molina presented the Laurel Award for Screen to playwright Tom Stoppard, whose screen credits range from the Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love to last year's Anna Karenina. Stoppard, who admitted when he first came to Los Angeles 40 years ago the place frightened him but now just makes him nervous, said, "An award from writers to writers -- it is not like any other -- and I am really touched." While his plays are full of verbal dexterity, he said he most admires screen dialogue that says a lot with very few words. "I'm not a great screenwriter," he demurred. "I'm a bit talkative."


Richard Kind served as the host for the proceedings in New York, mixing together Borscht belt-like humor that traded on his own insecurities with cracks about his relative anonymity, despite such recent credits as Argo and HBO's Luck. The evening turned rowdier than its L.A. counterpart, when comedienne Lisa Lampanelli came on to serve as presenter of several categories in radio news. She called the nominees "drier than Susan Boyle's c---" and cracked: "This award means a lot to these five losers. You've never heard of them, and after tonight, you never will again."

When Dunham accepted the award for best new show, she told the audience about the time she spent New Year's Eve with her mother, watching Lampanelli perform at Caroline's. Afterward, Dunham's mom told Lampanelli that her then-15-year-old daughter wanted to be just like her. "What," the comic replied, "a c---?"

Sunday's New York ceremony did have its touching moments, particularly during a tribute to the late Nora Ephron. Meg Wolitzer, who wrote the book that Ephron turned into the movie This Is My Life, gave a moving speech about the late writer-director's generosity toward other women writers and her great joy for life. Later, Dunham said that she had been one of the young women writers to whom Ephron had reached out, and she promised that she would make sure to cause some trouble in Ephron's honor.

A complete list of Writers Guild winners and nominees follows (winners' names are in red and marked with an asterisk).



Flight, written by John Gatins; Paramount Pictures

Looper, written by Rian Johnson; TriStar Pictures

The Master, written by Paul Thomas Anderson; The Weinstein Co.

Moonrise Kingdom, written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola; Focus Features

* Zero Dark Thirty, written by Mark Boal; Columbia Pictures


* Argo, Screenplay by Chris Terrio; based on a selection from The Master of Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez and the Wired magazine article “The Great Escape” by Joshuah Bearman; Warner Bros. Pictures

Life of Pi, screenplay by David Magee; based on the novel by Yann Martel; 20th Century Fox

Lincoln, screenplay by Tony Kushner; based in part on the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin; DreamWorks Pictures

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, screenplay by Stephen Chbosky; based on his book; Summit Entertainment

Silver Linings Playbook, screenplay by David O. Russell; based on the novel by Matthew Quick; The Weinstein Co.


The Central Park Five, written by Sarah Burns and David McMahon and Ken Burns; Sundance Selects

The Invisible War, written by Kirby Dick; Cinedigm Entertainment Group

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, written by Alex Gibney; HBO Documentary Films

* Searching for Sugar Man, written by Malik Bendejelloul; Sony Pictures Classics

We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, written by Brian Knappenberger; Cinetic Media

West of Memphis, written by Amy Berg & Billy McMillin; Sony Pictures Classics




Boardwalk Empire, Written by Dave Flebotte, Diane Frolov, Chris Haddock, Rolin Jones, Howard Korder, Steve Kornacki, Andrew Schneider, David Stenn, Terence Winter; HBO

* Breaking Bad, Written by Sam Catlin, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Gennifer Hutchison, George Mastras, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett; AMC

Game of Thrones, Written by David Benioff, Bryan Cogman, George R.R. Martin, Vanessa Taylor, D.B. Weiss; HBO

Homeland, Written by Henry Bromell, Alexander Cary, Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon, Chip Johannessen, Meredith Stiehm; Showtime

Mad Men, Written by Lisa Albert, Semi Chellas, Jason Grote, Jonathan Igla, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, Brett Johnson, Janet Leahy, Victor Levin, Erin Levy, Frank Pierson, Michael Saltzman, Tom Smuts, Matthew Weiner; AMC


30 Rock, Written by Jack Burditt, Kay Cannon, Robert Carlock, Tom Ceraulo, Vali Chandrasekaran, Luke Del Tredici, Tina Fey, Lauren Gurganous, Matt Hubbard, Colleen McGuinness, Sam Means, Dylan Morgan, Nina Pedrad, John Riggi, Josh Siegel, Ron Weiner, Tracey Wigfield; NBC

Girls, Written by Judd Apatow, Lesley Arfin, Lena Dunham, Sarah Heyward, Bruce Eric Kaplan, Jenni Konner, Deborah Schoeneman, Dan Sterling; HBO

* Louie, Written by Pamela Adlon, Vernon Chatman, Louis C.K.; FX

Modern Family,  Written by Cindy Chupack, Paul Corrigan, Abraham Higginbotham, Ben Karlin, Elaine Ko, Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Dan O’Shannon, Jeffrey Richman, Audra Sielaff, Brad Walsh, Bill Wrubel, Danny Zuker; ABC

Parks and Recreation, Written by Megan Amram, Greg Daniels, Nate Dimeo, Katie Dippold, Daniel J. Goor, Norm Hiscock, Dave King, Greg Levine, Joe Mande, Aisha Muharrar, Nick Offerman, Chelsea Peretti, Amy Poehler, Alexandra Rushfield, Michael Schur, Mike Scully, Harris Wittels, Alan Yang; NBC


* Girls, Written by Judd Apatow, Lesley Arfin, Lena Dunham, Sarah Heyward, Bruce Eric Kaplan, Jenni Konner, Deborah Schoeneman, Dan Sterling; HBO

The Mindy Project, Written by Ike Barinholtz, Jeremy Bronson, Linwood Boomer, Adam Countee, Harper Dill, Mindy Kaling, Chris McKenna, B.J. Novak, David Stassen, Matt Warburton; Fox

Nashville, Written by Wendy Calhoun, Jason George, David Gould, David Marshall Grant, Dee Johnson, Todd Ellis Kessler, Callie Khouri, Meredith Lavender, Nancy Miller, James Parriott, Liz Tigelaar, Marcie Ulin; ABC

The Newsroom, Written by Brendan Fehily, David Handelman, Cinque Henderson, Paul Redford, Ian Reichbach, Amy Rice, Aaron Sorkin, Gideon Yago; HBO

Veep, Written by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Roger Drew, Sean Gray, Armando Iannucci, Ian Martin, Tony Roche, Will Smith; HBO


“Buyout” (Breaking Bad), Written by Gennifer Hutchison; AMC

“Dead Freight” (Breaking Bad), Written by George Mastras; AMC

“Fifty-One” (Breaking Bad), Written by Sam Catlin; AMC

“New Car Smell” (Homeland), Written by Meredith Stiehm; Showtime

* “The Other Woman”(Mad Men), Written by Semi Chellas and Matthew Weiner; AMC

“Say My Name” (Breaking Bad), Written by Thomas Schnauz; AMC


“The Debate” (Parks and Recreation), Written by Amy Poehler; NBC

“Episode 9” (Episodes), Written by David Crane & Jeffrey Klarik; Showtime

“Leap Day” (30 Rock), Written by Luke Del Tredici; NBC

“Little Bo Bleep” (Modern Family), Written by Cindy Chupack; ABC

“Mistery Date” (Modern Family), Written by Jeffrey Richman; ABC 

* “Virgin Territory” (Modern Family), Written by Elaine Ko; ABC



* Hatfields and McCoys, Nights Two and Three, Teleplay by Ted Mann and Ronald Parker, Story by Bill Kerby and Ted Mann; History Channel

Hemingway & Gelhorn, Written by Jerry Stahl and Barbara Turner; HBO

“Pilot”(Political Animals), Written by Greg Berlanti; USA


Coma, Nights 1 and 2, Teleplay by John McLaughlin, Based on the book byRobin Cook; A&E

* Game Change, Written by Danny Strong, Based on the book by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann; HBO


“A Farewell to Arms” (Futurama), Written by Josh Weinstein; Comedy Central

“Forget-Me-Not” (Family Guy), Written by David A. Goodman; Fox

“Holidays of Future Passed” (The Simpsons), Written by J. Stewart Burns; Fox

* “Ned and Edna’s Blend Agenda” (The Simpsons), Written by Jeff Westbrook; Fox

“Treehouse of Horror XXIII” (The Simpsons), Written by David Mandel & Brian Kelley; Fox


The Colbert Report, Writers: Michael Brumm, Stephen Colbert, Rich Dahm, Paul Dinello, Eric Drysdale, Rob Dubbin, Glenn Eichler, Dan Guterman, Peter Gwinn, Barry Julien, Jay Katsir, Frank Lesser, Opus Moreschi, Tom Purcell, Meredith Scardino, Scott Sherman, Max Werner; Comedy Central

Conan, Writers: Jose Arroyo, Andres du Bouchet, Deon Cole, Josh Comers, Dan Cronin, Michael Gordon, Brian Kiley, Laurie Kilmartin, Rob Kutner, Todd Levin, Brian McCann, Conan O'Brien, Matt O'Brien, Jesse Popp, Andy Richter, Brian Stack, Mike Sweeney; TBS

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,Writers: Rory Albanese, Kevin Bleyer, Richard Blomquist, Steve Bodow, Tim Carvell, Hallie Haglund, J.R. Havlan, Elliott Kalan, Dan McCoy, Jo Miller, John Oliver, Zhubin Parang, Daniel Radosh, Jason Ross, Jon Stewart; Comedy Central

Jimmy Kimmel Live, Writers: Tony Barbieri, Jonathan Bines, Joelle Boucai, Sal Iacono, Eric Immerman, Gary Greenberg, Josh Halloway, Bess Kalb, Jimmy Kimmel, Jeff Loveness, Molly McNearney, Bryan Paulk, Danny Ricker, Rick Rosner; ABC

Key & Peele, Writers: Jay Martel, Ian Roberts, Keegan Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Sean Conroy, Colton Dunn, Charlie Sanders, Alex Rubens, Rebecca Drysdale; Comedy Central

* Portlandia, Writers: Fred R. Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, Karey Dornetto, Jonathan Krisel, Bill Oakley; IFC

Real Time with Bill Maher, Writers: Scott Carter, Adam Felber, Matt Gunn, Brian Jacobsmeyer, Jay Jaroch, Chris Kelly, Mike Larsen, Bill Maher, Billy Martin; HBO

Saturday Night Live, Head Writer: Seth Meyers, Writers: James Anderson, Alex Baze, Neil Casey, Jessica Conrad, James Downey, Shelly Gossman, Steve Higgins, Colin Jost, Zach Kanin, Chris Kelly, Joe Kelly, Erik Kenward, Rob Klein, Lorne Michaels, John Mulaney, Christine Nangle, Mike O’Brien, Josh Patten, Paula Pell, Marika Sawyer, Sarah Schneider, Pete Schultz, John Solomon, Kent Sublette, Bryan Tucker, Additional Sketch By Emily Spivey, Jorma Taccone, Additional Material By Frank Sebastiano; NBC Universal


* 66th Annual Tony Awards, Written by Dave Boone; Special Material by Paul Greenberg; Opening and Closing Songs by David Javerbaum, Adam Schlesinger; CBS

2012 Film Independent Spirit Awards, Written by Billy Kimball, Wayne Federman; IFC

After the Academy Awards, Head Writers Gary Greenberg, Molly McNearney; WritersTony Barbieri, Jonathan Bines, Sal Iacono, Eric Immerman, Jimmy Kimmel, Jeffrey Loveness, Bryan Paulk, Danny Ricker, Richard G. Rosner; ABC

National Memorial Day Concert, Written by Joan Meyerson; PBS


Days of Our Lives, Written by Lorraine Broderick, Carolyn Culliton, Richard Culliton, Rick Draughon, Christopher Dunn, Lacey Dyer, Janet Iacobuzio, David A. Levinson, Ryan Quan, Dave Ryan, Melissa Salmons, Roger Schroeder, Elizabeth Snyder, Christopher J. Whitesell, Nancy Williams Watt; NBC

One Life to Live, Written by Lorraine Broderick, Ron Carlivati, Anna Theresa Cascio, Daniel J. O’Connor, Elizabeth Page, Jean Passanante, Melissa Salmons, Katherine Schock, Scott Sickles, Courtney Simon, Chris Van Etten; ABC

* The Young & The Restless, Written by Amanda Beall, Jeff Beldner, Brent Boyd, Susan Dansby, Janice Ferri Esser, Jay Gibson, Scott Hamner, Maria Kanelos, Natalie Minardi Slater, Beth Milstein, Michael Montgomery, Anne Schoettle, Linda Schreiber, Lisa Seidman, Sarah K. Smith, Christopher J. Whitesell, Teresa Zimmerman; CBS


* “The Good Sport” (Sesame Street); Written by Christine Ferraro; PBS


* “Girl vs. Monster,” Story by Annie De Young; Teleplay byAnnie De Young and Ron McGee; Disney Channel


“The Anthrax Files” (Frontline), Written by Michael Kirk; PBS

“A Perfect Terrorist” (Frontline); Written by Thomas Jennings; PBS

“Lost in Detention” (Frontline), Written byRick Young; PBS

* “Money, Power and Wall Street: Episode One” (Frontline), Written by Martin Smith and Marcela Gaviria; PBS

“Money, Power and Wall Street: Episode Three” (Frontline), Written by Michael Kirk & Mike Wiser; PBS

“Money, Power and Wall Street: Episode Four” (Frontline), Written by Marcela Gaviria and Martin Smith; PBS


“The Amish” (American Experience), Written by David Belton; PBS

“Clinton” (American Experience), Written by Barak Goodman; PBS

“Death and the Civil War” (American Experience), Written by Ric Burns; PBS

* “The Fabric of the Cosmos: The Illusion of Time” (Nova), Written by Randall MacLowry; PBS

“The Fabric of the Cosmos: Quantum Leap” (Nova), Telescript by Josh Rosen and Julia Cort, Story by Joseph McMaster and Josh Rosen; PBS

“Johnny Carson: King of Late Night” (American Masters), Written byPeter T. Jones; PBS


* “Tragedy In Colorado: The Movie Theatre Massacre,” Written by Lisa Ferri, Joel Siegel; ABC News


* “The Ghost of Joe McCarthy” (Moyers & Company), Written by Bill Moyers, Michael Winship; Thirteen/ WNET

“Making History at Ole Miss,” Written by Polly Leider; CBS News

“The Regime Responds” (Frontline), Written by Marcela Gaviria; PBS

“Stem Cell Fraud” (60 Minutes), Written by Scott Pelley, Michael Rey andOriana Zill de Granados, CBS News




“CBS Radio News,” Written by Duane Tollison; CBS Radio News

“Local and National News,” Written byMark Hugh Miller; CBS Radio News

“Remembering Andy Williams,” Written by Arlene Lebe; CBS Radio News

* "World News This Year 2011,” Written by Darren Reynolds; ABC News Radio


* “Dishin Digital,” Written by Robert Hawley; WCBS-AM

“Pre-existing Conditions and the Affordable Care Act,” Written by Scott J. Saloway; CBS Radio News

“Tributes,” Written by Gail Lee, CBS Radio News




* “Partners,” Written by Dan A. Greenberger; CBS


“CBS News Animations,” Animation by David Rosen; CBS News

* “The Oscars” (Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood), Animation by Bob Pook; CBS




* “The Compromises, Episode 1,” “The Pest, Episode 3,” The Snake, Episode 4,” “The Bonding, Episode 6,” “The Future, Episode 7/Series Finale” (Jack in a Box), Written by Michael Cyril Creighton; jackinaboxsite.com

“Episode 1, The Report,” “Episode 2, The Third Man,” “Episode 3, The Suck” (Lauren), Written by Jay Rodan; youtube.com/wigs

“Assistants, Episode 104,” “Photo Shoot, Episode 105,” “Ten Per Cent, Episode 106,” “Hashtags, Episode 107,” “The Contract, Episode 108” (Model Wife), Written by Cory Cavin, Bill G. Grandberg & Josh Lay; modelwifeshow.com

“Babyshower,” “Stendhal Syndrome,” “A Very Important Call,” “Think,” “Emma” (The Untitled Webseries That Morgan Evans Is Doing), Written by Morgan Evans; UntitledWebseries.com

“All in the Family; Chapter 1,”  “All in the Family; Chapter 2,” “All in the Family; Chapter 3,” “All in the Family; Chapter 4,” “All in the Family; Chapter 5” (Dexter Early Cuts), Written by Scott Reynolds; SHO.com

* “Hide And Seek,” “Keys to the Kingdom,” “The Chosen Ones,” “Parting Shots” (The Walking Dead: Cold Storage), Written by John Esposito; amctv.com


007 Legends, Written By Bruce Feirstein; Activision

Assassin’s Creed III, Story By Alex Hutchinson, Corey May, Matt Turner; Multiplayer Story By Richard Farrese, Jeffrey Yohalem; Lead Scriptwriter Corey May; Scriptwriter Nicholas Grimwood, Russell Lees, Matt Turner, Danny Wallace, Ceri Young; Ubisoft

* Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, Scriptwriting by Richard Farrese, Jill Murray; Ubisoft

Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, Writing Consultant Marv Wolfman; Disney Interactive Studios

Halo 4, Narrative Design Christopher Schlerf; Microsoft Studios

Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Written By John Garvin; Sony Computer Entertainment America