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A Tribute to ... Paul Haggis


Paul Haggis made a big name for himself first as screenwriter, and then as a director. He was closely involved in two successive Oscar-winning productions: in 2005 as the writer of the boxing film MILLION DOLLAR BABY, and the following year as the writer and director of the ensemble drama CRASH. 

Paul Haggis Portrait

Origins in TV Series

Born in 1953 in Ontario, Canada, Haggis did not start his career in cinema. For two decades he was the screenwriter, director and producer of various TV formats, including the highly successful ABC series ‘thirtysomething’ (1987–1991), and the ‘Tracey Ullman Show’. Haggis was the creator and writer of the cult Mafia series ‘EZ Streets’ (1996–1997), which despite its short run, broke new ground and catapulted him into the world of Hollywood. The influence of his work of that series is visible in shows such as THE SOPRANOS and THE WIRE. 

Analysis of Human Emotions

Haggis found his way into cinema with his debut film RED HOT (1993), a story about four Russian teenagers attempting to form the Soviet Union’s first rock ‘n’ roll band in 1959. Eight years later, Haggis returned with several new projects: firstly, he adapted F.X. Tool’s boxing story ‘Rope Burn’ for the film MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004), which he initially wanted to shoot himself before Clint Eastwood entered the project. This seemingly conventional sports film tells the tragic tale of a female boxer and her trainer, while cleverly avoiding all genre clichés. His successful collaboration with Clint Eastwood continued with FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS (2006) and LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA (2006). Haggis also direct his hit movie CRASH in 2004, a challenging ensemble drama about prejudice and racism in present-day L.A., which won the Oscar for best film, best screenplay and best editing.

Flirting with Action Film

In the same year, Haggis was a leading member of the writing team working on the highly anticipated James Bond reboot CASINO ROYALE. This successful collaboration continued with QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008). With his third cinema feature as a director, the thriller IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH (2007), Haggis addressed the mysterious disappearance of a US soldier after returning from the war in Iraq. His most recent project, the action thriller THE NEXT THREE DAYS, was produced by his own company Highway 61.

Paul Haggis will be in Zurich to accept the A Tribute To… award personally on 01.10. The Zurich Film Festival will screen a retrospective of his most important films in honour of this exceptional director and screenwriter.