a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Paul Haggis

Rather quietly last weekend, Paul Haggis became the first writer in history to write two consecutive Best Picture Oscar winners.

Even more amazing? Million Dollar Baby and Crash were his first two screenplays to reach theaters.

(Turns out he wrote and directed something called Red Hot in 1993. Balthazar Getty and Carla Gugino. Apparently it went straight to video, and then left video. It doesn't seem to be available on any format now.)

He wrote both Million Dollar Baby and Crash on spec. For Million Dollar Baby, he optioned the short stories they were based on. Word is that Clint Eastwood directed Haggis' script as written.

Crash started out as a dream Haggis had one night. He called up his friend Bobby Moresco, and they knocked out the script.

Haggis was 51 years old before he had a movie produced that hit movie theaters. Which is sort of encouraging. I'm 42, so on one level it makes me feel young.

On another level, it makes me feel very old.

Because Haggis isn't really an overnight sensation. He's been writing TV since his early 20s, on TV shows like One Day At a Time, The Love Boat and Diff'rent Strokes. He worked on The Facts of Life during its later years, when a very young George Clooney was part of the cast, and no one could have guessed they'd be up for 5 Oscars between them in two decades.

(The mind boggles as well, at the thought of how the racial politics of Diff'rent Strokes and The Facts of Life planted the seed of what would someday become Crash. Okay, maybe not. But again, I liked Crash).

Haggis wrote and directed episodes of Thirtysomething, LA Law and Family Law. He created TV series like EZ Streets (which was supposed to be great) and Walker, Texas Ranger (which at least got Chuck Norris out of movies).

Haggis has been busting his ass for a long time. Working his way up. And when he got the chance, when he built some connections, he spec'd a couple of great scripts.

He had a heart attack during the filming of Crash. He refused to let anyone else finish directing it, and returned to the set 2 weeks later.

This year, he has another script coming out, called "Flags of Our Fathers", about Iwo Jima. Directed by Clint Eastwood. So three in a row isn't out of the question.

Sometimes it's all about paying your dues, and building your chops.


At 11:55 PM, Anonymous Barry Gusey said...

Ditto for Fernando Meirelles. While he hasn't won any Oscars, I think he probably deserved the award for both "City of God" and "The Constant Gardener."

At 3:28 AM, Blogger Danny Stack said...

Haggis is a great writer all right. I read his adaptation of The Last Kiss and it taught me a lot about brevity and economy.

Not sure about "knocking the script out" with Robert Moresco. They probably slaved and fought coming up with a draft they were happy with... (if that's what you meant about "knocking one out").

At 4:11 AM, Blogger taZ said...

Great info on Haggis!

Is he really 53 years old? Then I'm really young!

At 10:33 AM, Blogger writergurl said...

If you think he has "chops". Which I don't. I disliked BOTH movies of his.
Too many plotholes and far fetched things to suspend your beliefs about. (Biting your own tongue off? Please. Ever accidentally bitten your tongue?)

At 11:34 AM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

I actually bit my tongue pretty hard last week. I think I may have even lacerated it. I was chewing gum and got careless.

I also don't like people named after food.

At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haggis DID NOT win a screenplay Oscar two years in a row. He was nominated for writing Million Dollar Baby in 2005, but the Oscar went to Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor for Sideways.

Ken Levine made the same mistake on his site. Is it so hard to go to or IMDb and look up the real stats?

Not to go off on a rant but, with the availability of information on the internet, you'd think everyone would be a genius. Instad, the opposite has happened. Everyone has become too lazy to even spend the 30 seconds it would take to type something in Google and follow the first link.

How many posts have you seen on the net that ask questions about easliy obtainable information? "When did that movie come out?" "Where do I find the Nicholl rules?" "What's the phone number for kmart?" Seriously, people, look it up. Information about almost everything is at your fingertips in a matter of seconds.

Scott, don't take this personally, it's just a pet peeve of mine (and I happen to be a fan of Alexander Payne to boot). It's still a great accomplishment for Haggis, but let's get our facts straight.

At 11:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes. It WAS however, too much work to proofread my comment. Cheers.

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous pd boy said...


Scott actually wrote that Haggis became the...

"...first writer in history to write two consecutive Best Picture Oscar winners."

He didn't say that he won "Best Screenplay" consecutively but wrote the Best Picture Winners consecutively.

I'll just leave it at that...

At 12:30 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

I knew he didn't win the Oscar last year, and that's why I didn't say he did, though I can see how the statement about writing two consecutive Best Picture Oscar winners was slightly ambiguous.

As for imdb, where do you think I got all this info? :-)

At 1:59 PM, Anonymous Eddie said...

I've been searching all over for the number to kmart.

At 2:27 PM, Blogger Brett said...

Come on, Scott-- ain't got you no kinda brain?


I think it's kinda cool that Haggis is getting some attention for being a WRITER. Maybe-- just maybe-- there's a teeny tiny little sprouting respect for the folks actually, you know, MAKING UP these stories that all the directors and actors and producers get credit for snatching out of thin air. If you work hard enough, learn your game, and keep those legs churning -- amazing -- good things start to happen.

At 5:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

since I am Canadian at birth Haggis is my new hero (my hero board is written in chalk by the way)

At 9:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for ranting but, I had just seen the misinformation on Ken Levine's site (which DOES actually say he won best screenplay twice) and seen it repeated elsewhere. When I saw your post, I just snapped. Arrgh!

(Not to mention that a board I moderate was awash, as usual, with easily found information).

Thanks for your posts and I'll be sure to read more carefully next time.

At 10:08 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

Well, that was something to get really pissed off about. Yikes.

Face it, cripes, the guy is a good writer.

Bit my tongue last week, too. No, wait, I bit Tom Crymes tongue.



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