Paul Haggis

Active - 1993 - 2016  |   Born - Mar 10, 1953 in London, Ontario, Canada  |   Genres - Drama

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Paul Haggis absorbed the principles of playwriting and theater production at an early age. His parents owned the Gallery Theatre in London, Ontario, and it was there that he began to develop his skills. Haggis went on to study cinematography at Fanshawe College before moving to California in 1975 at the age of 22, ready to begin writing for the camera. He started by contributing to such programs as The Love Boat, One Day at a Time, Diff'rent Strokes, and The Facts of Life -- where he took the title of producer for the first time. Television proved to be a natural venue for Haggis' creative talents. He spent the 1980s and '90s writing for series like The Tracey Ullman Show, Due South, L.A. Law, and EZ Streets. He also created and co-created such shows as Walker, Texas Ranger and Family Law, and acted as executive producer for series like Michael Hayes and Family Law. A serious milestone for Haggis would come in 2004, however, when he made his first high-profile foray into feature film.

Haggis had his eye on two stories written by former fight manager Jerry Boyd (published under the name F.X. Toole) as the material through which he could create a screenplay. After securing them both, he wrote a script titled Million Dollar Baby -- a project that soon found Clint Eastwood signing on to play the lead, though the actor negotiated his way into the director's chair as well. He left Haggis' original draft unchanged and within a year of shooting, the film was in theaters, racking up four Oscars, including Best Picture. By this time Haggis was already steeped in his next project, a crime drama called Crash. Working from a story he'd conceived and a script he'd written himself, Haggis was able to achieve a unique vision by also helming the film. It was his first time directing a major motion picture, but it promised not to be the last, as Crash received vocal if not universal critical acclaim, including film critic Roger Ebert's proclamation that it was the best film of 2005. Crash was also nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture, surprising many when it won the latter prize on Oscar night. In addition to his Academy Award for producing the Best Picture-winning film, Haggis also went home with an Oscar for co-writing the screenplay.

Haggis wasn't about to rest on the success of his recent efforts, however. He began 2006 by penning the screenplay for the Zach Braff comedy The Last Kiss as well as adapting the James Bradley book The Flags of Our Fathers, which Clint Eastwood signed on to direct.

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Factsheet

  • Gained theatrical and writing skills while working at the Gallery Theatre in London, Ontario, which was owned by his parents.
  • Moved to England to become a fashion photographer, but later went broke and returned to Canada to study cinematography.
  • Ran into a writer from Diff'rent Strokes while taking a writing course in Los Angeles; after giving the writer a script for free, he was hired onto the show.
  • Was fired as a writer and executive producer for The Facts of Life TV series after suggesting that they make the show funny.
  • Was the cocreator of Walker, Texas Ranger, his longest-running TV series.
  • His 2005 film Crash was somewhat inspired by his and his wife's experience of being carjacked at gunpoint in the early 1990s outside of a Blockbuster video store.
  • Suffered a heart attack while filming Crash and was advised by doctors not to return to work for months, but he returned two weeks later to finish the film himself.
  • Became the first person in Oscar history to ever have written back-to-back Best Picture winners for 2004's Million Dollar Baby and 2005's Crash.
  • Cofounded the Artists for Peace and Justice in 2009, a non-profit organization which encourages peace and social justice and addresses poverty issues in various communities.
  • After being a member of Scientology for 34 years, wrote his resignation letter (which went viral) in 2009 and left the organization due to their opposition of same-sex marriages.