After making his name with a BAFTA Award-winning stint working on the long-running British documentary series World in Action
in the '80s, Greengrass brought his passion for real-life political events to his historically based feature-film debut Resurrection
, about a disillusioned British soldier in the Falklands War. Although he wouldn't helm another feature until the 1998 dramedy The Theory of Flight
, Greengrass spent the interim years writing and directing TV docudramas in his homeland. His international breakthrough came with the 2002 film Bloody Sunday
, which chillingly recreated the infamous January 30, 1972, massacre of Irish civil-rights protestors by British troops. Using natural light and a shaky handheld camera, Greengrass imbued the film with disturbing realism and was rewarded with myriad kudos, including the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. His success led to his first Hollywood movie, the 2004 spy sequel The Bourne Supremacy
. Although it may have seemed like an unlikely project for the director, Greengrass was able to indulge his long-standing fascination with espionage (he had coauthored the controversial 1985 book Spycatcher
with former British Secret Service Assistant Director Peter Wright), while bringing his signature gritty style to the action franchise. Two years later, Greengrass tackled a particularly sensitive project: a real-time account of doomed flight United 93, one of the planes hijacked on September 11, 2001. Although some questioned whether it was too soon to address the tragedy, most critics hailed Greengrass' United 93
as a raw, heartrending masterpiece, devoid of exploitation, cynicism or sentimentality. Come Oscar time, he was honored with his first best-director nomination. After the success of The Bourne Ultimatum
, the third installment in the espionage franchise, he decided to stay in the thriller genre but based his next project on actual events. Green Zone
, starring Matt Damon, focused on the Iraq War and the search for weapons of mass destruction.Paul Greengrass Fast Facts:
- Created movies in his high school's art room, filming with a super 8 camera and using whatever items he found lying around.
- Cowrote the controversial 1985 book Spycatcher with former British Secret Service (MI5) Assistant Director Peter Wright; because of the sensitive information it contained, the book was banned from release by the British government until 1988.
- Spent 10 years working on the acclaimed British documentary series World in Action before returning to filmmaking with the 1989 drama Resurrected.
- Won Best Director at the British Independent Film Awards and the Irish Film and Television Awards for the 2002 fact-based drama Bloody Sunday, which also won the Golden Berlin Bear for Best Film at the Berlin International Film Festival.
- After directing the widely popular sequel The Bourne Supremacy (2004), he made the much more controversial docudrama United 93 (2006), the first feature film to focus its narrative on the events of 9/11.
- Filmed Green Zone (2010), an Iraq War thriller starring Matt Damon as a military man searching for weapons of mass destruction, in Morocco, Spain and England.
- Paul Greengrass Awards:
- 2006 Oscar: Best Achievement in Directing - Nominee
- 2006 BAFTA Awards: Best Original Screenplay - Nominee
- 2002 Sundance Film Festival: World Cinema - Winner
- 2007 BAFTA Awards: Best Director - Nominee
- 2006 BAFTA Awards: The David Lean Award for Achievement in Direction - Winner
- 2007 BAFTA Awards: Best British Film - Nominee
- 2006 BAFTA Awards: The Alexander Korda Award for the Outstanding British Film of the Year - Nominee
- 2014 Golden Globe: Best Director - Motion Picture - Nominee
- University of Cambridge, Queens' College, Cambridge, England