"As artists, we have to be brave. If we aren't brave, we aren't artists." Paul Haggis
Academy Award winning Canadian screenwriter, producer and film director Paul Haggis spent his early career writing, producing and directing various American and Canadian television network series, including “Diff'rent Strokes,” “One Day at a Time,” “The Love Boat,” “thirtysomething” (won him two Emmys), “EZ Street,” “Due South,” “L.A. Law,” “Family Law,” “Mister Sterling” and “Walker, Texas Ranger.”
He broke into the film scene in 2006 when he became the first person in the history of the Academy Awards to write two back-to-back Best Picture Winners; “Crash” (which also marked his directorial debut) and the previous year's winner, “Million Dollar Baby.” He also wrote the screenplay for Clint Eastwood's “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima,” as well as the latest James Bond film, “Casino Royale” (all three in 2006).
Haggis recently directed and wrote the film "In the Valley of Elah" (2007), starring Tommy Lee Jones, Susan Sarandon, and Charlize Theron. He is currently writing the screenplay for "Bond 22," the working title of the future sequel to the 2006 film "Casino Royale," and is set to write and direct an upcoming film adaptation of Bart Baker's novel, "Honeymoon with Harry."
The Oscar winner is a father of four and currently married to singer/actress Deborah Rennard.
Childhood and Family:
In London, Ontario, Canada, Paul Edward Haggis was born on March 10, 1953, to Ted and the late Mary Haggis, onetime owners of London Ontario's former Gallery Theatre at 36 York Street. Haggis has three sisters, Alissa Sullivan, Lauren Kilvington and Katy Elizabeth.
Haggis attended Catholic Central High School and studied art at H.B. Beal secondary school. Later influenced by Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 movie “Blow Up,” he moved to England for a year with the idea of becoming a fashion photographer. Instead, he went hopelessly broke and returned to his homeland of Canada where he attended film school at Fanshawe College. In 1975, when he was 22, Haggis left for Los Angeles to pursue his dream of writing television and movie scripts.
On April 9, 1977, Haggis married his first wife, Diane Christine Gettas and the couple has three children. They divorced in 1994 and Haggis became engaged to singer/actress Deborah Rennard (born on November 4, 1959) in 1996. They were married on June 21, 1997, and have one child together.
Haggis is a co-founder of Artists for Peace and Justice, a member of the board of directors for the Hollywood Education and Literacy Project, the Environmental Media Association, the President's Council of the Defenders of Wildlife and the advisory board of the Centre for the Advancement of Non-Violence.
The City of London, Ontario, declared September 11, 2006, Paul Haggis Day.
Million Dollar Talent
"A lot of films made me love the movies, everything from Hitchcock to Godard. But the ones that really grabbed me were Costa-Gavras's films like 'Z' and 'State of Siege.'" Paul Haggis
Initially dreaming of becoming a successful fashion photographer, Paul Haggis began writing plays while in school and worked for his father’s construction company. At age 19, he wrote his first play, based on C.S. Lewis' “Narnia Chronicles.”. Haggis and his sister performed some of the plays at The Gallery Theatre, then owned by their father.
With encouragement and financial support from his father, Haggis, 22 years old at the time, moved to Los Angeles to follow his dream of writing television and movie scripts. According to his father, it took three years, two months and 10 days before he could sell his first TV script. During that time, Haggis did various odd jobs while honing in on his craft at night.
Haggis landed his first professional writing job when Jack Humphrey at CBC tapped him to pen the pilot for the Canadian sitcom “Hangin’ In,” which also aired briefly in the United States through syndication. The show marked the start of many young Canadian actors, including Eric McCormack of "Will & Grace" fame, who played an arrogant child-actor in a later episode of "Hangin' In."
While still taking a writing course, Haggis ran into a writer for NBC's popular sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes" after the show's producer Norman Lear lost his writing partner. Haggis offered his help for free. His writing for "Diff'rent Strokes" proved to be quite popular among the producers. He landed the job of story editor and then moved on to serve as a writer for the CBS long-running sitcom “One Day at a Time.” Unfortunately, the show was canceled. He then got a job as executive producer and writer on NBC’s sitcom "The Facts of Life," a spin-off of the sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes." Haggis also worked as a writer for a string of TV series, including ABC’s sitcom set on a cruise ship, "The Love Boat," and the ABC sitcom starring Judith Light and Tony Danza, "Who's the Boss."
In 1987, Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz asked if Haggis would be the supervising producer and write for their new ABC drama series “thirtysomething.” Despite telling them that he wasn't sure if he could do the producer job, they hired him anyway. His work later won him several awards, including two Emmys and a Humanitas Prize, in addition to nominations at the WGA (Writers Guild of America).
Following the success of “thirtysomething,” Haggis became a sought-after name in Hollywood and was given a chance to create and write his own series. He signed with MTM Productions and created the Valerie Harper CBS series titled “City” in 1990. Unfortunately, the dark, political satire show, which took place in a corrupt City Hall, was short-lived. It was removed from the schedule after 13 weeks.
In 1993, Haggis created the CBS western/police dramatic series "Walker, Texas Ranger," starring Chuck Norris. It aired for nine seasons and was broadcasted in over 100 countries.
Haggis served as writer and creative consultant for David E. Kelley's legal drama on NBC, "L.A. Law." and created the award-winning Canadian television police drama, "Due South.” "Due South" was the first Canadian made series to earn a prime time slot on a major US network. Over the four-season run of the series, it earned 53 Gemini nominations and won 15..
In 1996, Haggis created the CBS drama "EZ Streets," a dark, ambiguous series starring Ken Olin and Joe Pantonliano. Premiering on October 27, 1996, the show was canceled after its first episode. It was re-launched that spring and won Haggis a Founder's Award at the Viewers for Quality Television Awards in 1997.
Afterwards, Haggis directed the CBS drama series "Family Law" (1999-2002), starring Kathleen Quinlan as a divorced lawyer. He also worked on the NBC series "Mr. Sterling" (2003), a political drama starring Josh Brolin as an idealistic United States Senator. The show was canceled after ten episodes despite many positive reviews.
In 2004, Haggis began transitioning to film. He wrote the screenplay for a boxing drama film directed by Clint Eastwood, "Million Dollar Baby," based on a book of short stories by longtime fight manager Jerry Boyd. The film, which starred Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman, won four Academy Awards, including one for Best Picture. Haggis himself received an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, and won a Discover Screenwriting Award, Golden Satellite Award and USC Scripter Award.
Haggis subsequently made his feature directing debut with "Crash," a drama featuring an ensemble cast (including Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon and Jennifer Esposito) that explores racial and social tensions in Los Angeles. He also produced and co-wrote the screenplay. It premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2004, was released internationally in 2005 and was a box-office success. A self-described "passion piece" for Haggis, the film garnered critical acclaim, winning three Oscars for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Editing of 2005 at the 78th Academy Awards.
"I never intended to write this movie. It's something that just crept into my psyche. At two o'clock in the morning one day, I woke up and started writing. By the morning, I had these stories. It wasn't something planned. I never thought, 'Ooh, I'll write a movie about this someday.'" Paul Haggis (on “Crash,” 2005)
Following his Oscar wins, Haggis adapted the screenplay for Tony Goldwyn's "The Last Kiss" (2006), based on the 2001 Italian film "L' Ultimo Bacio" that revolves around a young couple and their friends struggling with adulthood and issues of relationships and commitment. The film, which stars Zach Braff, Jacinda Barrett, Casey Affleck and Rachel Bilson, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to mixed reviews.
That same year, Haggis was hired to do a rewrite of "Casino Royale," the 21st installment of the James Bond franchise. The film, based on the 1953 novel of the same name by Ian Fleming and the first to star Daniel Craig as agent James Bond, becomes the highest grossing James Bond film to date. Meanwhile, Haggis' work was nominated for a Saturn Award and a BAFTA Award.
Still in 2006, Haggis wrote the screenplay for Clint Eastwood's Oscar-nominated war film "Flags Of Our Fathers," the true story of the six men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima. For his work, Haggis was nominated for a Satellite Award for Best Screenplay, Adapted. Haggis also wrote and produced Eastwood's Academy Award and Golden Globe winning war film, "Letters From Iwo Jima," the same story told from the Japanese perspective, and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Recently, Haggis directed and wrote the film "In the Valley of Elah," which explores the circumstances of the death of a U.S. soldier who is brutally murdered on his return from Iraq and stars Tommy Lee Jones, Susan Sarandon, and Charlize Theron. It premiered September 1, 2007, at the Venice Film Festival and was later shown at the Toronto International Film Festival. It opened in limited release in the United States on September 14, 2007. He also returned to television and created NBC's drama series "The Black Donnellys," which debuted on February 26, 2007, and last aired on April 2, 2007.
Haggis is currently writing the screenplay of "Bond 22," the working title of a future EON Productions' James Bond film and the sequel to the 2006 film "Casino Royale." Daniel Craig will reprise the role of James Bond and Marc Forster will direct the movie. It was originally scheduled for a May 2, 2008, release, but was pushed back to November 7, 2008, to allow more time to complete the film.
It has been announced that Haggis will write and direct a film adaptation of Bart Baker's novel "Honeymoon with Harry," set to be released on July 4, 2008. Jack Nicholson and Vince Vaughn reportedly will star in the movie.
Venice Film Festival: SIGNIS Award, "In the Valley of Elah," 2007
Academy Awards: Best Motion Picture of the Year, "Crash," 2006
Academy Awards: Best Writing, Original Screenplay, "Crash," 2006
Austin Film Critics Association: Best Director, "Crash," 2006
BAFTA: Best Screenplay - Original, "Crash," 2006
Broadcast Film Critics Association: Critics Choice Award-Best Writer, "Crash," 2006
Chicago Film Critics Association: Best Screenplay, "Crash," 2006
David di Donatello: Best Foreign Film (Miglior Film Straniero), "Crash," 2006
Humanitas Prize: Feature Film Category, "Crash," 2006
Independent Spirit: Best First Feature, "Crash," 2006
London Critics Circle Film: Screenwriter of the Year, "Crash," 2006
Online Film Critics Society: Best Breakthrough Filmmaker, "Crash," 2006
Writers Guild of America: Best Original Screenplay, "Crash," 2006
Deauville Film Festival: Grand Special Prize, "Crash," 2005
Black Movie: Outstanding Motion Picture, "Crash," 2005
Southeastern Film Critics Association: Best Screenplay, Original, "Crash," 2005
Washington DC Area Film Critics Association: Best Screenplay - Original, "Crash," 2005
Hollywood Film Festival: Hollywood Breakthrough Award-Breakthrough Directing, 2005
American Screenwriters Association: Discover Screenwriting Award, "Million Dollar Baby," 2005
Golden Satellite: Best Screenplay, Adapted, "Million Dollar Baby," 2005
USC Scripter: "Million Dollar Baby," 2005
Viewers for Quality Television: Founder's Award, "EZ Streets," 1997
Gemini: Canada's Choice Award, "Due South," 1996
Gemini: Best Dramatic Series, "Due South," 1996
Gemini: Best Dramatic Series, "Due South," 1995
Gemini: Best TV Movie, "Due South: Pilot (#1)," 1995
Gemini: Best Writing in a Dramatic Series, "Due South," 1995
Emmy: Outstanding Drama Series, "thirtysomething," 1988
Emmy: Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series, "thirtysomething," 1988
Humanitas Prize: 60 Minute Category, "thirtysomething," 1988