By Eric Kelsey
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The writers of "Her" and "Captain Phillips" were given top honours by their peers on Saturday at the annual Writers Guild Awards, a strong predictor of success in the screenplay categories at the Oscars in a month's time.
Spike Jonze won the best original screenplay award for "Her," a tale set in the near future about a man in a romantic relationship with a lifelike computer operating system.
"It's a high honour coming from writers," Jonze, 44, who also directed the film, said accepting the prize.
"I was thinking about how in a way it's like an award for pain," he added. "It's a specific pain that writers know and it's the highs and lows of sitting in there by yourself."
"Captain Phillips," inspired by the events of a cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates, earned writer Billy Ray the prize for best adapted screenplay. The film was based on Richard Phillips' 2010 memoir "A Captain's Duty" about the ordeal.
"I also owe quite a debt to Captain Richard Phillips, who survived something that I know would've killed me," Ray said accepting the award. "It's really Captain Phillips who wrote this story; I just wrote it down."
It is the first Writers Guild Awards for Jonze and Ray.
Winners of the awards handed out by the Writers Guild of America for original screenplay and adapted screenplay have gone on to win the corresponding Oscar awards for eight of the past 10 years.
Neither "Her" nor "Captain Phillips" are considered front-runners for the best picture Oscar, which will be handed out on March 2.
Notably absent from nominees this year were dramas "12 Years a Slave" and "Philomena," which are both nominated for best adapted screenplay at the Oscars. The WGA is noted to have the most rigorous eligibility qualifications of Hollywood award shows.
The WGA Awards were handed out simultaneously at ceremonies in Los Angeles and New York.
Alex Gibney, the writer and director of the documentary "We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks," was given a special award for the script that best embodies constitutional rights and civil liberties.
Gibney, 60, advocated in his acceptance speech for the pardon of Chelsea Manning, the U.S. Army private who is serving a prison term for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. military logs and diplomatic cables to the website.
"Stories We Tell," about the writer-director Sarah Polley's family, earned the WGA award for documentary screenwriting.
Writers for AMC Networks Inc's "Breaking Bad," a cable TV drama series about a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher who begins making illegal drugs to support his family, added to its victory lap of awards winning for best TV drama and best TV drama episode.
The series also has won top awards at the Emmys last September and last month at the Golden Globes, screen actors guild and directors guild.
The writers of HBO political satire "Veep" won for best TV comedy and Netflix Inc's political thriller "House of Cards" won for best new TV series.
(Editing by Lisa Shumaker)