'Argo' Screenwriter Chris Terrio Describes His Research Immersion to Create Taut Thriller
One of the most talked about screenplays in awards contention this fall is also one of the few screenplays not available for free, legal download for your consideration: Argo. I imagine for guild members and members of the Academy, Warner Brothers has most likely sent out copies of this screenplay, but for the rest of us mere mortals that would like to consider the screenplay for educational purposes, it's "Argo [bleep] yourself." So, instead of reading the screenplay, why not hear from the screenwriter himself? Thanks to David Poland and his DP/30 series, we have an in-depth interview with Argo screenwriter Chris Terrio, covering his filmmaking history, his screenwriting approach, and specifically his process for adapting the original Wired article by Joshuah Bearman for the Argo screenplay.
First, in case you don't have 30 minutes to spare, here's a quick 5-minute video from the Academy Conversations with actor/director Ben Affleck and writer Chris Terrio discussing the project:
Here's the DP/30 interview with Argo screenwriter Chris Terrio:
I personally really liked Argo. I found the storytelling tight, I was emotionally connected with the characters, and I was on the edge as the third act climax played out on screen -- even though I already know how this story ends! Certainly, I grant in retrospect that it may be easy for critics to say the movie's version of the ending felt "Hollywood," but it hit all the right beats at all the right times, and isn't being a bit "Hollywood" the whole point of the story? To get to this point of a tightly constructed script peppered with hints of the greater political story playing out on the margins of this specific rescue mission, I was happy to hear Terrio explain that he immersed himself in the history of the Iran hostage crisis for a year before bringing a draft of the screenplay back to producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov at SmokeHouse Pictures. And hats off to Clooney, Heslov and SmokeHouse for giving Terrio the free rein to spend that much time in the history of the material to create this screenplay.
Terrio sums up this working relationship best when he says:
It never felt like a job, which maybe is the greatest gift that any writer or director or actor or any artist can have, right? That you get to work and it never feels like you’re going to your job everyday.
Terrio is no overnight success as you'll learn from watching the video, even though Argo marks the first time many of us have noticed his writing talents. So keep writing, because overnight success stories like this are usually a decade in the making.
What part of Terrio's research and writing process resonates with you? Share with us in the Comments.