Haggis in November 2013.
|Born||Paul Edward Haggis
March 10, 1953
London, Ontario, Canada
|Residence||Santa Monica, California, U.S.|
|Occupation||Director, screenwriter, producer|
|Spouse(s)||Diane Christine Gettas (m. 1977; div. 1994)
Deborah Rennard (m. 1997)
I don't know if 'Crash' is a good movie or not because I didn't set out to make a movie. Really, what I wanted to do is more of a social experiment.
You don't make a film because the audience is ready for it. You make a film because you have questions that are in your gut.
I made a very good living as a bad writer. I wrote a lot of comedies, 'Diff'rent Strokes,' 'Facts of Life,' while all my friends were doing the good shows, like 'Cheers,' but I loved it because I got to be a working writer in Hollywood.
You can't plan for people to like your movies. I knew that people were not going to run in droves to the theater for the 'In the Valley of Elah.' I knew they might not want to see it, but I still had to the movie; I felt very strongly about it. Wanting to keep telling a good story is what you want to do, a compelling story.
We all have these tendencies in us that could go this way or that. I think that's the real key in writing. To look at a character without judgment.
I loved American filmmakers when I was growing up. I didn't get to film school or anything. I was a very bad student. I just devoured film, but there was a point in my teens when I started to run a little film society.
In 'The Next Three Days,' even though it was a prison breakout movie, I was asking myself, 'What would I do? How far would I go for the woman I loved? How far would I go, and what would I do when the person then told me that they were guilty? Could I still believe in them?' So it was very personal.
When I discovered European filmmakers, it affected me so deeply. It redefined what cinema could be. I mean, 'Blow-Up' ends with a dead body and mimes playing tennis. What?
We give you characters we'd feel very comfortable judging, and then go: 'Oh yeah? Watch this'.
I just figure if you have a modicum of celebrity, you need to use it, and you need to use it for more things than just promoting yourself or your film or your image or your product.
I don't pay much attention to the press. My films always get good reviews and bad reviews. I just try to make the best film I can.
I'm a filmmaker, and I was most influenced by Hitchcock's films. How he could plant such deep enriched characters and then make us care both about the antagonist and protagonist was masterful.
Even a modicum of celebrity is hard to deal with. You see it with actors and directors all the time.
In Scientology, in the Ethics Conditions, as you go down from Normal through Doubt, then you get to Enemy, and, finally, near the bottom, there is Treason.
I like taking genres and subverting them. I did that with 'In the Valley of Elah.' I said, 'Okay, this is just a murder mystery. Relax.' And then, two thirds of the way through, I broke every convention of a murder mystery.
For me, the most interesting people are ones who often work against their best interests. Bad choices. They go in directions where you go, 'No no no nooo!' You push away someone who is trying to love you, you hurt someone who's trying to get your trust, or you love someone you shouldn't.
A lot of films made me love the movies, everything from Hitchcock to Godard. But the ones that really grabbed me were Costa-Gavras's films like 'Z' and 'State of Siege.'
I am really drawn to damaged characters, and I have a lot of sympathy for them. Making those complicated characters empathetic is something to strive for. It's too easy to create a good guy or a good girl.
My kids paid the price for my career. We can say it's for our family, but it almost never is. It's about us. It's just some of us can pretend better than others.
Every 10 years, I know less about love and relationships. The smarter I get, the less I know.
I wrote an episode for 'thirtysomething,' and a producer said, 'That's really good, but what is it about? What does it say about you? What questions are you asking yourself?' I had never thought about that. This comment changed who I was, because it made me look at my own soul, the dark corners in my soul, and accept that dark side.
I don't think I'm against all wars, but you'd have to have a damn good reason to send your son or daughter to fight, or to go yourself. So often, we are lied to and manipulated by our governments for their own very cynical reasons.
Even in a comedy, you have to make people feel. You have to put your hand inside their soul and twist out their heart.
I moved to Hollywood when I was 22. I was married. I had a kid right away. And I had worked as a furniture mover amongst various other jobs, and I'd work eight, ten hours a day to support my family – and I'd come home and write for two hours a night or two and a half, or three hours a night.
I don't think it's the job of filmmakers to give anybody answers. I do think, though, that a good film makes you ask questions of yourself as you leave the theatre.
My one guiding rule for success in the film world would be, be careful of your friends.
I have so many questions about love. How do you win at it? Especially if you're in a relationship with an impossible person? What if you believe in someone who's completely untrustworthy, who at their core can't even believe in themselves?
All my work is partly biographical. I mean, 'Crash' was absolutely that, absolutely. But you just wouldn't recognize me in most of those characters. But I was in every single one of those characters in 'Crash,' because those were all fears that I had felt. Things that I had thought in my deepest, darkest heart.
I try not to think of actors as I'm writing because I think you do them a disservice by writing for things they've already done.
The worst thing you can do to a filmmaker is to walk out of his film and go, 'That was a nice movie.' But if you can cause people to walk out and then argue about the film on the sidewalk… I think we're all seeking dissension, and we love to affect an audience.
I just love actors, and I've always loved actors. I empathize with their job. Everyone thinks it's easy, and it ain't. To be that vulnerable and brave on camera is tough. The more they reveal themselves, the more we love them, but there's a lot of truth in what they're showing.
The great majority of Scientologists I know are good people who are genuinely interested in improving conditions on this planet and helping others.
'Crash' was incredibly personal to me. So was 'In the Valley of Elah.' There were things in 'The Next Three Days' that were questions I was asking myself but couldn't answer, like how far would you go for love? Can you believe in somebody who can't even believe in themselves? But this is highly personal.
As a general rule, I don't plan to travel with my Oscars, but we may have to make an exception.
As artists, we have to be brave. If we aren't brave, we aren't artists.
Unless I'm really uneasy with what I'm writing, I lose interest very quickly.
I like it when an actor is secure enough to ask questions, and the director is secure enough not to be threatened by that.
I just asked myself, what piece of that man's soul did he just chew off and swallow to get next week's assignment? You know, just to live, just to work as an artist, or to feed the family?
Film is an emotional medium; it's not a logical medium. It's not an intellectual medium, so every decision you make as a filmmaker and an actor has to be emotional in some way, even in the rejection of logic.
I'm such an antsy type of person. I can't write in a room without other people around. I write in coffee shops.
I don't know how much credit I can take for 'Walker, Texas Ranger,' because I only worked on it for three weeks. I re-wrote the pilot, and then my name was on it forever.
The wonderful thing about Clint is you can never second guess how he is going to react to anything.
You have to have empathy, knowledge and compassion for your characters if you're a writer.
I have never pretended to be the best Scientologist, but I openly and vigorously defended the church whenever it was criticized, as I railed against the kind of intolerance that I believed was directed against it. I had my disagreements, but I dealt with them internally.
I like to write about things about which I have no answers, questions that trouble me. These things trouble me.
'Crash' came from personal experience. I saw things inside me from living in L.A. that made me uncomfortable. I saw horrible things in people and saw terrible things in myself. I saw a black director completely humiliated, but the three people around me just thought it was funny. 'No,' I said, 'that is selling your soul.'
I was trying to talk about where we are right now as a society, and talk about the fear we all live in, and certainly since 9-11, how it's affected us and the world.