Stephen Gaghan established his status as an acclaimed screenwriter with the multiple plot thriller Traffic (2000), which he adapted from the miniseries “Traffik.” Thanks to his originality, the filmmaker won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Writers Guild of America Award, and others. Beginning his career as a writer for such acclaimed films as “New York Undercover” (1994) and “NYPD Blue” (1997, won an Emmy Award for the “Where’s Swaldo” episode), Gaghan also scored success with his self-directed geopolitical thriller Syriana (2005) and took home a National Board of Review Award, an Edgar Allan Poe Award and an Oscar nomination. On a more private note, Gaghan, who turned down the offer to write the screen adaptation of “The Da Vinci Code,” once had a drug addiction problem before finally entering rehab and meeting companion Michael McCraine.
Childhood and Family:
Stephen Gaghan was born on May 6, 1965, in Louisville, Kentucky, to Betty and Tom Hague. The student of the Kentucky Country Day School once had a serious drug problem, although he managed to get straight “A’s.” In 1992, he was picked up for cocaine and heroin possession and faced a conditional discharge sentence. While going through a drug recovery process, Stephen met his future private partner, Michael McCraine. Stephen is the father of a son named Gardner Gaghan (born in April 2000).
In 1993, Stephen Gaghan settled in L.A. and launched his career in the movie business as a screenwriter for the popular cop series “New York Undercover” (1994). He also became the story editor and teleplay writer for the short-lived horror series American Gothic (1995) before making his first producing attempt in the two-episode-only sci-fi series “Sleepwalkers” (1997), in which he also co-wrote.
Aside from his near-to-perfect task as the executive story editor and occasional writer in the legal drama series “The Practice” (1997, earned an Edgar Allan Poe nomination for the “First Degree” episode), Gaghan also served on the writing staff of the ABC drama “NYPD Blue” (1997, created by David Milch). For his talented writing in the “Where’s Swaldo” episode, he won an Emmy for Best Writing for a Drama Series.
Gaghan made his movie screenwriting debut with the military drama Rules of Engagement (2000), starring Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson. At the same time, he also worked with director Steven Soderbergh to revive the Simon Moore-written miniseries “Traffik” in the feature film Traffic (2000). Featuring actors Benicio Del Toro, Jacob Vargas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, the thriller offered three storylines that chronicled drug smuggling across the Mexican-USA border. For his superb writing in the complex movie, Gaghan collected a number of awards, like an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a Writers Guild of America, a Broadcast Film Critics Association award, a Chicago Film Critics Association, a Southeastern Film Critics Association and a BAFTA Film award for Best Adapted Screenplay. He also won an Edgar Allan Poe award for Best Motion Picture.
Gaghan sat in the director’s chair with his self-penned mystery drama thriller Abandon (2002), which centered on the mysterious disappearance of some college students. Before long, the movie was nominated for a Best Film at the Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival. It was followed with his collaboration with Leslie Bohem to write the historical war drama Alamo (2004), for director John Lee Hancock. Also in 2004, the moviemaker appeared on screen as Adam in the remake romantic comedy Alfie, starring Jude Law and Marisa Tomei.
Returning to scriptwriting, Gaghan replaced the deceased storywriter of the crime drama Havoc (2005) before revisiting his previous success with the self-directed/written geopolitical thriller Syriana (2005), an adaptation of the memoirs of CIA agent Robert Baer. Focusing on international oil business manipulation, the movie soon accepted a National Board of Review award and an Edgar Allan Poe for Best Screenplay. Syriana, which starred George Clooney and Matt Damon, also received an Oscar, a Writers Guild of America and a USC Scripter nomination for Best Screenplay.
In 2007, Gaghan is scheduled to release his third directing work, the drama Blink (also wrote screenplay and adaptation), which is based on Malcolm Gladwell’s short story collection. Blink will be produced by Gladwell and Leonardo DiCaprio, who will also star in the movie.
- Edgar Allan Poe: Best Motion Picture Screenplay, Syriana, shared with Robert Baer, 2006
- National Board of Review: Best Screenplay – Adapted, Syriana, 2005
- Oscar: Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, Traffic, 2001
- Golden Globe: Best Screenplay - Motion Picture, Traffic, 2001
- Writers Guild of America: Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, Traffic, 2001
- Broadcast Film Critics Association: Best Screenplay – Adapted, Traffic, 2001
- Chicago Film Critics Association: Best Screenplay, Traffic, 2001
- Southeastern Film Critics Association: Best Screenplay – Adapted, Traffic, 2001
- Edgar Allan Poe: Best Motion Picture, Traffic, shared with Simon Moore, 2001
- BAFTA Film: Best Screenplay – Adapted, Traffic, 2001
- Emmy: Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, “NYPD Blue,” 1997