Staten Island native Chris Terrio has a lot to smile about. Not only has he won Hollywood's highest honors for his "Argo" screenplay, but the movie went on to earn the Academy Award for Best Picture.Terrio, 36, who grew up in Midland Beach, graduated from the St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School, and worked as a teen correspondent for the Staten Island Advance. Now he has won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.
"The movie dramatizes a CIA mission to rescue a half dozen diplomats who escaped the U.S. embassy in Tehran during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis," adds The Advance.
Ben Affleck, who directed the film, plays Tony Mendez, a CIA "exfiltration" specialist who worked with filmmakers in Hollywood to create an elaborate ruse, tricking Iranian officials into thinking the diplomats were Canadian filmmakers scouting locations for a fake science fiction movie, adds the report.
In his acceptance speech, Terrio dedicated his award to Mendez: "Thirty-three years ago, Tony, using nothing but his creativity and his intelligence, got six people out of a very bad situation, and I want to dedicate this to him."
The supporting cast includes Alan Arkin, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad") and John Goodman ("Roseanne").
Argo was up for seven Oscars. It won three. William Goldenberg, who won the Best Editing Oscar, gave Terrio a shout-out "for writing an editor's dream for a screenplay," according to The Advance.
Terrio shares the award for Affleck
Terrio likened the win to Affleck's Best Original Screenplay award for the 1997 film, "Good Will Hunting," which he shared with Matt Damon, adds The Advance.
"Ben, 15 years ago, you were up here with the first screenplay you got made, and now you made this film that brought me up here. It's a gift and I can never repay it," he said at The Oscars.
Before taking on "Argo," Terrio was previously known for directing 2005's "Heights," a production by the team of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory (Merchant/Ivory) and starring Glenn Close, adds the report.
Terrio spoke about the project in a 2005 interview with the Advance, after earning a degree in English literature at Harvard, he said he heard Ivory speak while attending graduate school at Britain's Cambridge University.
Terrio wrote Ivory a letter asking for advice, and the two stated corresponding. Years later when the Merchant/Ivory team was looking for an assistant for their film "The Golden Bowl," they hired Terrio.
Association with Merchant Ivory
"Three years later, Terrio was brought in to film the behind-the-scenes footage for Merchant/Ivory's "Le Divorce," where he met Glenn Close. Merchant would later send Terrio the script for "Heights," along with a sum of cash and his blessing to make the film.Merchant died on May 25, 2005," added The Advance.
"I don't know what persuaded him to trust somebody in his mid-20s who never made a film before. I'm just awfully glad he did... In the end he really liked it. I think he was really happy with it. That's when peace descended on me," Terrio told the Advance.
He also spoke about his background as a Staten Islander, and about his experience in the Advance newsroom, which he remembered positively, though he chose not to pursue a career in journalism:"I wasn't good enough, I was too lazy... I'm a little bit too manic to let things happen for me, and when you're a journalist and trying to prod people in the wrong way then it's disastrous."
I too had a summer internship at The Advance, and I can tell you the experience shaped and formed my interest in journalism and writing in general. Terrio has proved that intelligence, hard work, and a little bit of good fortune can go a long way in shaping a golden career in Hollywood. Staten Island arts followers applaud Terrio's win, as this charismatic native son proves that talent and diligence go a long way in bringing home Oscar gold. Chris Terrio we salute your win.