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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 January 2006, 10:24 GMT
Paul Haggis' years of screen success
Paul Haggis

Paul Haggis, who directed Crash, began his career writing 70s TV comedies including The Love Boat and Diff'rent Strokes.

Canadian-born Haggis, 52, also wrote 2005's Oscar-winning film Million Dollar Baby and was originally going to direct it until its star Clint Eastwood asked if he could take the director's chair.

Eastwood went on to win best film and director Oscars, while Hilary Swank won best actress for her role as the trailer-park girl who went on to become a boxing champion. Their co-star Morgan Freeman also won best supporting actor.

Full profiles of the main Oscars contenders

But Hollywood was a long way off when Haggis' career began back in 1975.

He started out as a writer on the TV series One Day at a Time, a successful comedy about a single mother raising teenage daughters.

Over the years he has managed to build up writing credits for about 30 TV shows and films.

His work during the 1970s progressed from sitcoms to hit shows including legal drama LA Law (1986), comedy sketch series The Tracey Ullman Show (1987) and angst-ridden drama Thirtysomething (1987).

Million Dollar Baby - 2004
Crash - 2004
EZ Streets - 1996
Due South - 1994
thirtysomething - 1987
The Tracey Ullman Show - 1987
LA Law - 1986
Diff'rent Strokes 1978

He also worked as executive producer for a number of shows including the popular Canadian mountie series Due South in 1994, and was supervising producer for thirtysomething.

Two years later he wrote and produced the acclaimed mobster drama series EZ Streets.

The New York Times recently named it as one of the most influential TV series of all time, saying "without EZ Streets, there would be no Sopranos".

But by 2000, he decided to branch out and leave his successful TV career behind him.

Million Dollar Baby
Million Dollar Baby won four Oscars

He optioned two short stories by veteran boxing manager Jerry Boyd, who wrote under the name FX Toole, and they went on to become the basis of Haggis' screenplay for Million Dollar Baby.

He and his friend Bobby Moresco also came up with an original screenplay for a film called Crash, exploring racial stereotypes in Los Angeles, which Haggis directed and produced in 2003. Haggis wrote a song for the movie as well.

It premiered at 2004's Toronto film festival and stars an ensemble cast of Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Sandra Bullock, Brendan Fraser, Thandie Newton and Ryan Phillippe.

Crash features a series of racial clashes between some of the inhabitants of LA's cultural melting pot, whose lives intertwine over a 36-hour period, with often tragic consequences.

Jennifer Esposito, Don Cheadle and Kathleen York
Crash focuses on LA's cultural melting pot

It earned Haggis the best original screenplay award at the Baftas.

Haggis said of the film: "I wanted to see how strangers affect other strangers, how one person affects another without even knowing or met them or having touched them, and I wanted to see how those things circle around."

BBC World's Talking Movies reporter Laura Metzger said most of its characters make judgements and take action "based on stereotypes - everyone it seems is capable of discrimination and bigotry".

Haggis told her he hated that fact that "as Americans we just love to define people, we love to say 'good person, bad person' and we make that decision instantly".

Thandie Newton and Matt Dillon
Thandie Newton and Matt Dillon play key characters in Crash
"And usually it's by the shape of their eyebrows, the colour of their skin, the kind of clothes they wear, something incredibly superficial."

He added that in the film he allowed "nice people" to say "truths which are ugly, ugly truths" and that "you may not like it, it's not politically correct".

"Unless you explore these issues we can't deal with them," he said.


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