The Dialogue: An Interview with Screenwriter Paul Haggis (2006)
After starting as what he calls "a complete failure" who survived only because of his supportive parents, writer, director, and now producer Paul Haggis (b. 1953) enjoyed many successful years as a television screenwriter. The Canadian then moved to the big screen with two improbable hits — Million Dollar Baby (2005) and Crash (2006), both of which won Oscars for Best Picture. Not bad for a person with no formal training in film. Haggis is the first and only writer to accomplish that back-to-back feat. More recently he wrote the screenplay for Clint Eastwood's Flags of our Fathers (2006), then wrote and directed In the Valley of Elah (2007). In this interview-dialogue format Haggis talks about the trajectory of his life and work. Writers must write for themselves, from the gut, he says, and not for what they think directors or audiences want. They ought to address questions of the human heart, as opposed to easy answers. Haggis says that when he is anxious and nervous about his characters or script, then he knows he's in the right place. One of the most pleasant aspects of this interview is Haggis's authentic and self-effacing manner.