Paul Edward Haggis (born March 10, 1953) is a Canadianscreenwriter, producer, and director. He spent his early career producing and directing various American and Canadian television network series. Among his achievements are screenwriter and producer credits for consecutive Best Picture winners, 2004's Million Dollar Baby and 2005's Crash, the latter of which he also directed.
He gained recognition in the film industry for his work on the 2004 film Million Dollar Baby, which Allmovie described as a "serious milestone" for the writer/producer, and as "his first high-profile foray into feature film". Haggis had read two stories written by Jerry Boyd, a boxing trainer who wrote under the name of F.X. Toole. Haggis acquired the rights to the stories, and developed them into the screenplay for Million Dollar Baby. Clint Eastwood portrayed the lead character in the film. Eastwood also directed the film, and used the screenplay written by Haggis.Million Dollar Baby received four Academy Awards including the Academy Award for Best Picture.
After Million Dollar Baby, Haggis worked on the 2004 film Crash. Haggis came up with the story for the film on his own, and then wrote and directed the film, which allowed him greater control over his work.Crash was his first experience as director of a major feature film. Critical reception of Crash was positive, and Roger Ebert called it the best film of 2005. It received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Director, in addition to four other Academy Award nominations. Haggis received two Academy Awards for the film: Best Picture (as its producer), and Best Writing for his work on the screenplay. With Million Dollar Baby and then Crash, Haggis became the first individual to have written Best Picture Oscar-winners in two consecutive years.
After maintaining active membership in the Church of Scientology for 35 years, Haggis left the organization in October 2009. He was motivated to leave Scientology in reaction to statements made by the San Diego branch of the Church of Scientology in support of Proposition 8, the ballot initiative which banned gay marriage in California. Haggis wrote to Thomas Davis, the Church's spokesman, and requested that he denounce these statements; when Davis remained silent, Haggis responded that "Silence is consent, Tommy. I refuse to consent." Haggis went on to list other grievances against Scientology, including its policy of disconnection, and the smearing of its ex-members through the leaking of their personal details.The Observer commented on defections of Haggis and actor Jason Beghe from Scientology, "The decision of Beghe and Haggis to quit Scientology appears to have caused the movement its greatest recent PR difficulties, not least because of its dependence on Hollywood figures as both a source of revenue for its most expensive courses and an advertisement for the religion." In an interview with Movieline, Haggis was asked about similarities between his film The Next Three Days and his departure from the Scientology organization; Haggis responded, "I think one’s life always parallels art and art parallels life." In February 2011, The New Yorker published a 25,000-word story, "The Apostate", by Lawrence Wright, detailing Haggis's allegations about the Church of Scientology. The article ended by quoting Haggis: "I was in a cult for thirty-four years. Everyone else could see it. I don’t know why I couldn’t."
Haggis is also the founder of a non-profit organization called Artists for Peace and Justice that encourages peace and social justice and addresses issues of poverty and enfranchisement in communities around the world. The organization’s immediate goal is to serve the poorest communities in Haiti with programs in education and healthcare. Haggis is very involved in the Haitian relief effort and often travels to the country himself.