The East Coast WGA Awards show got under way at New York's BB Kings a good hour before the pokey West Coast, and attendees tweeted up a storm. Soon the trades ran with the news that the key film awards had gone to the adapted screenplay for "Argo" and original script for "Zero Dark Thirty." WGA West was still running clips from nominated screenplays like "Silver Linings Playbook" after the winners had been announced ("Argo"'s clip was the WGA joke, natch.)
"Lincoln" writer Tony Kushner accepted his Paul Selvin award from Steven Spielberg as "Argo"'s win was revealed in NYC. Lena Dunham had already tweeted her "Girls" win from New York, to her accepting producer in LA, Jenni Konner. (Full list of film and television winners is here and below.)
At evening's end, Jessica Chastain gave out the adapted screenplay, finally; "Argo" earned the most applause, and won. A jittery Chris Terrio said that when he began work on "Argo" in 2008, he couldn't pay his rent in New York and defaulted on his student loans. He thanked his director Ben Affleck, who was watching on the WGA live stream.
When original script winner Mark Boal went up to accept his award, he made a point of saying that his director, at least, was supporting him in person. "I want to celebrate Kathryn Bigelow, who came here." She got a big round of applause. "Kathryn, you took this script and made it live, breathe and fly." Boal beat out "Flight," "Looper," "The Master" and "Moonrise Kingdom." As for the Oscars, the WGA did not include Boal's main competitors Michael Haneke ("Amour") or Quentin Tarantino ("Django Unchained").
Documentary screenplay went yet again to Malik Bendjelloul's "Searching for Sugar Man," which is expected to also win the doc Oscar.
The high points of the night were Spielberg presenting an honorary award to Kushner –"Having the writer on set with me is a luxury…nothing gives me more security," said the director, who was surprised to get scribbled notes every day from Kushner–like the theater. This movie was a hybrid, Spielberg observed. In his elegantly literate acceptance speech, Kushner said: "Whatever we write about, we write about freedom…we are among those who insist on the untrammeled imagination."
Alfred Molina presented to Brit playwright/screenwriter Tom Stoppard ("Anna Karenina"), who got a standing ovation. Stoppard said that when he used to come to Hollywood decades ago he was terrified, but now it only makes him nervous. He expressed his admiration for the simple lines in movies that derive their detonation from settings, like Harrison Ford to Tommy Lee Jones in "The Fugitive": "I don't care."
Matt Weiner, who later accepted an episodic win for "Mad Men," gave a lovely tribute to the late great Frank Pierson, who preferred the grind of "Mad Men" to retirement.
Nathan Fillion of "The Castle" hosted the packed ballroom event at the JW Marriott downtown; "I will land this awards show upside down if I have to," he said.
12,000 WGA members voted for these awards. WGA winners often predict the Oscar screenplay winners. The winners have matched up 13 out of the last 18 years.
"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
"Searching for Sugar Man" – Written by Malik Bendejelloul; Sony Pictures Classics
"Breaking Bad" – Written by Sam Catlin, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Gennifer Hutchison, George Mastras, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett; AMC
"Louie" – Written by Pamela Adlon, Vernon Chatman, Louis C.K.; FX
"Girls" – Written by Judd Apatow, Lesley Arfin, Lena Dunham, Sarah Heyward, Bruce Eric Kaplan, Jenni Konner, Deborah Schoeneman, Dan Sterling; HBO
COMEDY / VARIETY (INCLUDING TALK) – SERIES
"Portlandia" – Writers: Fred R. Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, Karey Dornetto, Jonathan Krisel, Bill Oakley; IFC
COMEDY / VARIETY – MUSIC, AWARDS, TRIBUTES – SPECIALS
66th Annual Tony Awards – Written by Dave Boone; Special Material by Paul Greenberg; Opening and Closing Songs by David Javerbaum, Adam Schlesinger; CBS
"The Other Woman" ("Mad Men") – Written by Semi Chellas and Matthew Weiner; AMC
"Virgin Territory" ("Modern Family" )- Written by Elaine Ko; ABC
LONG FORM – ORIGINAL
"Hatfields and McCoys," (Nights Two and Three) – Teleplay by Ted Mann and Ronald Parker, Story by Bill Kerby and Ted Mann; History Channel
LONG FORM – ADAPTED
"Game Change" – Written by Danny Strong, Based on the book by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann; HBO
"Ned and Edna's Blend Agenda" (The Simpsons) – Written by Jeff Westbrook; Fox
"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
CHILDREN'S – EPISODIC & SPECIAL
"The Good Sport" (Sesame Street); Written by Christine Ferraro; PBS
CHILDREN'S – LONG FORM OR SPECIAL
"Girl vs. Monster," Story by Annie De Young; Teleplay by Annie De Young and Ron McGee; Disney Channel
DOCUMENTARY – CURRENT EVENTS
"Money, Power and Wall Street: Episode One" (Frontline) – Written by Martin Smith and Marcela Gaviria; PBS
DOCUMENTARY – OTHER THAN CURRENT EVENTS
"The Fabric of the Cosmos: The Illusion of Time" (Nova) – Written by Randall MacLowry; PBS
NEWS – REGULARLY SCHEDULED, BULLETIN, OR BREAKING REPORT
"Tragedy In Colorado: The Movie Theatre Massacre" – Written by Lisa Ferri, Joel Siegel; ABC News
NEWS – REGULARLY SCHEDULED OR BREAKING REPORT
"World News This Year 2011" – Written by Darren Reynolds; ABC News Radio
NEWS – ANALYSIS, FEATURE OR COMMENTARY
"Dishin Digital" – Written by Robert Hawley; WCBS-AM
PROMOTIONAL WRITING AND GRAPHIC ANIMATION CATEGORIES
ON-AIR PROMOTION (RADIO OR TELEVISION)
"Partners" – Written by Dan A. Greenberger; CBS
NEW MEDIA AND VIDEOGAME
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN WRITING ORIGINAL NEW MEDIA
"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
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN WRITING DERIVATIVE NEW MEDIA
"Hide And Seek," "Keys to the Kingdom," "The Chosen Ones," "Parting Shots" – "The Walking Dead: Cold Storage" – Written by John Esposito; amctv.com
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN VIDEOGAME WRITING
"Assassin's Creed III: Liberation" – Scriptwriting by Richard Farrese, Jill Murray; Ubisoft