Million Dollar Baby
|Million Dollar Baby|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Clint Eastwood|
|Produced by||Clint Eastwood
Albert S. Ruddy
|Screenplay by||Paul Haggis|
|Story by||F.X. Toole|
|Narrated by||Morgan Freeman|
|Music by||Clint Eastwood|
|Editing by||Joel Cox|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Running time||132 minutes|
Million Dollar Baby is a 2004 sports drama film directed, co-produced, and scored by Clint Eastwood and starring Eastwood, Hilary Swank, and Morgan Freeman. It is the story of an under-appreciated boxing trainer, his elusive past, and his quest for atonement by helping an underdog amateur boxer (the film's title character) achieve her dream of becoming a professional. The film won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
The screenplay was written by Paul Haggis, based on short stories by F.X. Toole, the pen name of fight manager and "cutman" Jerry Boyd. Originally published under the title Rope Burns, the stories have since been republished under the film's title.
Margaret "Maggie" Fitzgerald, a waitress from a Missouri town in the Ozarks, shows up in the Hit Pit, a run-down Los Angeles gym which is owned and operated by Frankie Dunn, a brilliant but only marginally successful boxing trainer. Maggie asks Dunn to train her, but he angrily responds that he "doesn't train girls."
Maggie attempts to win the cantankerous Frankie over by working out tirelessly each day in his gym, even when others discourage her. Eddie "Scrap-Iron" Dupris, Frankie's friend and employee, encourages and helps her all he can. "Scrap" also narrates the story.
Frankie's prize prospect, "Big" Willie Little, signs with successful manager Mickey Mack after becoming impatient with Dunn's rejecting offers for a championship bout. With prodding from Scrap and impressed with her persistence, Frankie reluctantly agrees to train Maggie. He warns her that he will teach her only the basics and then find her a manager. His most important advice is that she should protect herself in the ring at all times.
Before her first fight, Frankie leaves Maggie with another manager, much to her dismay, but rejoins her in the middle of the bout, and coaches her to victory. Maggie makes him promise not to abandon her again. Maggie turns out to be a natural. She fights her way up in the women's welterweight boxing division, winning many of her bouts with first-round knockouts. Estranged from his own daughter who returns his letters unopened, Frankie comes to establish an almost paternal bond with Maggie. Dupris becomes concerned when Frankie rejects several offers for big fights, though, and arranges a meeting for her with Mickey Mack, but she is loyal to Frankie, and is rewarded for her loyalty when he begrudgingly accepts a fight for her against a top-ranked opponent in the UK. He bestows a Gaelic nickname on her, which energizes the crowd, and the two travel Europe as she continues to win.
Maggie's own white trash family cares little for her well-being. Maggie saves up enough of her winnings to buy her mother a house, but instead of being grateful, she berates Maggie for endangering her welfare payments and Medicaid benefits. She also belittles her daughter's success in the ring, saying that everyone back home is laughing at her.
Frankie is finally willing to arrange a title fight. He secures Maggie a $1 million match in Las Vegas, Nevada against the WBA women's welterweight champion, Billie "The Blue Bear", a German ex-prostitute who has a reputation as a dirty fighter. Overcoming a shaky start, Maggie begins to dominate the fight, but after a round has ended, Billie knocks her out with a sucker punch from behind. Before Frankie can pull the corner stool out of the way, Maggie lands hard on it, breaking her neck and leaving her a quadriplegic.
At first, Frankie refuses to accept the bleak prognosis, but dozens of other medical opinions unanimously confirm there is no hope of recovery. He half-heartedly places the responsibility on Scrap for convincing him to train Maggie, but in the end blames himself.
In a medical rehabilitation facility, Maggie looks forward to a visit from her family, though Frankie repeatedly calls them with no success. Eventually, the family arrives—but only after first visiting Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood—and with an attorney in tow. Their lone concern is to arrange the transfer of Maggie's assets to them. She sees through their transparent scheme and orders them to leave, threatening to sell the house, which they have not claimed in their name to continue receiving welfare payments, out from under them if they ever show their faces again.
Frankie never leaves her side. He reads to her, urges her to go back to school and invites her to come live with him. As the days pass, however, Maggie develops bedsores and undergoes an amputation for an infected leg. She asks a favor of Frankie: to help her die while she can still remember the cheers she heard, saying she got what she most wanted out of life.
A horrified Frankie refuses, but seeks the advice of his priest, Father Horvak, whom he has tormented for 23 years. Horvak warns him that euthanasia is a grave sin, and that he will be lost forever if he goes through with it. Maggie bites her tongue repeatedly in an attempt to bleed to death, but the medical staff saves her life each time and takes measures to prevent further suicide attempts.
Frankie sneaks in one night. Just before administering a fatal injection of adrenaline, he finally tells Maggie the meaning of a nickname he gave her, Mo Chuisle (spelled incorrectly in the film as "mo cuishle"): Irish for "my darling, and my blood" (literally, "my pulse"). He then disappears for good. Scrap's narration is revealed to be a letter to Frankie's daughter, informing her of her father's true character.
- Clint Eastwood as Frankie Dunn, a gruff but well-meaning elderly boxing trainer.
- Hilary Swank as Margaret "Maggie" Fitzgerald, a spunky, highly skilled would-be boxer and the main protagonist.
- Morgan Freeman as Eddie "Scrap-Iron" Dupris, an elderly former boxer and Dunn's partner, who is blind in one eye.
- Jay Baruchel as Danger Barch, a would-be boxer with more enthusiasm than talent.
- Mike Colter as "Big" Willie Little, a boxer whom Dunn has trained for years.
- Lucia Rijker as Billie "The Blue Bear", a vicious German boxer and the main antagonist.
- Brían F. O'Byrne as Father Horvak, the priest of the church which Dunn attends, who cannot stand Dunn.
- Anthony Mackie as Shawrelle Berry, an overzealous boxer and frequent tenant of Dunn's gym.
- Margo Martindale as Earline Fitzgerald, Maggie's overweight selfish mother.
- Riki Lindhome as Mardell Fitzgerald, Maggie's sister.
- Michael Peña as Omar, a boxer and Shawrelle's best friend.
- Benito Martinez as Billie's manager
- Grant L. Roberts as Billie's cut man, (trainer) trained Hilary Swank off screen for her Academy award winning role
- Bruce MacVittie as Mickey Mack, a rival of Dunn.
- David Powledge as Counterman at Diner
- Joe D'Angerio as Cut Man
- Aaron Stretch as Himself
- Don Familton as Ring Announcer
Development and production
The film was stuck in so-called "development hell" for years before it was shot. Several studios rejected the project even when Eastwood signed on as actor and director. Even Warner Bros., Eastwood's longtime home base, would not agree to a US$30 million budget. Eastwood persuaded Lakeshore Entertainment's Tom Rosenberg to put up half the budget (as well as handle foreign distribution), with Warner Bros. contributing the rest ($15 million). Eastwood shot the film in less than 40 days between June and July 2004. Filming occurred in Los Angeles and film sets at Warner Brothers Studios. The term, 'Million Dollar Baby' was from a nose art on a WWII B24 heavy bomber. Eastwood had his daughter Morgan Colette appear in a brief role as a girl who waves to Swank's character at a gas station.
Million Dollar Baby initially had a limited release, opening in eight theaters in December 2004. In its later wide release, the film earned $12,265,482 in North America and quickly became a box-office hit both domestically and internationally. It grossed $216,763,646 in theaters; $100,492,203 in the United States, and $116,271,443 overseas. The film played in theaters for six and a half months.
The film received critical acclaim, with a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 86 out 100 score on Metacritic, meaning "universal acclaim". Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times gave the film four stars and stated that "Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby is a masterpiece, pure and simple," listing it as the best film of 2004. Michael Medved stated: "My main objection to Million Dollar Baby always centered on its misleading marketing, and effort by Warner Brothers to sell it as a movie about a female Rocky, with barely a hint of the pitch-dark substance that led Andrew Sarris of the New York Observer to declare that 'no movie in my memory has depressed me more than Million Dollar Baby.'"
In early 2005, the film sparked controversy when some disability rights activists protested against the ending. Wesley J. Smith in The Weekly Standard also criticized the film for its ending and for missed opportunities; Smith said, "The movie could have ended with Maggie triumphing once again, perhaps having obtained an education and becoming a teacher; or, opening a business managing boxers; or perhaps, receiving a standing ovation as an inspirational speaker."
Eastwood responded to the criticism by saying the film was about the American dream. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Eastwood distanced himself from the actions of characters in his films, noting, "I've gone around in movies blowing people away with a .44 Magnum. But that doesn't mean I think that's a proper thing to do". Roger Ebert believes "a movie is not good or bad because of its content, but because of how it handles its content. Million Dollar Baby is classical in the clean, clear, strong lines of its story and characters, and had an enormous emotional impact".
Some Irish speakers[who?] criticized the fact that the phrase Mo Chuisle, a term of endearment meaning My pulse, was misspelled in the film as Mo Cuishle, as shown on the back of Maggie's robe. In Irish and other Goidelic languages, consonants soften when followed by an 'h', hence the "c" in "chuisle" turns into a guttural "ch". It is translated in the film as "My darling, my blood". The original phrase is short for A chuisle mo chroí, meaning "O pulse of my heart". The film has also been praised for stirring interest in the Irish language in the U.S.
When describing the plot of the film, Ebert gave a spoiler warning. He noted in his reviews the difficulty of discussing the film without discussing details of the plot, saying that even warning about spoilers would itself be a spoiler. Susan Wloszczyna of USA Today said the film "packs a surprise plot twist" and said "spoilsports already have begun to leak details about this drama", saying "the urge to divulge the story's secrets will only grow worse when the film finally goes nationwide." Wloszczyna noted that David Thomson of The Independent "offered readers only a hint of the story basics" and said "most reviewers have coddled the sports saga with similar care..." Wloszczyna quoted Thomson as saying, "My great wish always, which is difficult to achieve, is to go in knowing nothing about a film."
Jeffrey Overstreet of Christianity Today avoided revealing plot details, stating that while knowing the nature of the third part would not ruin the film, it would alter the experience significantly. Mark Moring of Christianity Today said, "Who wants to watch a movie when you know how it ends? We've actually had to wrestle with that question around here lately..." Moring said, "We wondered if our 'moral obligation' to warn Christians about the potentially disturbing subject matter somehow 'trumped' our professional commitment to avoid plot spoilers — especially the worst plot spoiler of all: divulging the end. After some discussion, we agreed that the right decision was to not give away the end to Million Dollar Baby."
Michael Atkinson of The Village Voice said the film had a "spoiler-spawning shift in narrative." Ian Grey of Baltimore City Paper said the last act seems to be from another film at first, and said "Naming this misfortune and its consequences, however, would be an unforgivable spoiler."
Million Dollar Baby received the award for Best Picture of 2004 at the 77th Academy Awards. Clint Eastwood was awarded his second Best Director Oscar for the film and also received a Best Actor in a Leading Role nomination. Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman received Best Actress in a Leading Role and Best Actor in a Supporting Role Oscars, respectively. Joel Cox, Eastwood's editor for many years, was nominated for Best Film Editing, and Paul Haggis was nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay award.
The film was also nominated for and won a number of Golden Globes, SAG Awards, and the Directors Guild Award.
- 77th Academy Awards (Oscars)
- Won - Best Picture — Clint Eastwood, Albert S. Ruddy, Tom Rosenberg
- Won - Best Director — Clint Eastwood
- Won - Best Actress in a Leading Role — Hilary Swank
- Won - Best Actor in a Supporting Role — Morgan Freeman
- Nominated - Best Actor in a Leading Role — Clint Eastwood
- Nominated - Best Film Editing — Joel Cox
- Nominated - Best Adapted Screenplay — Paul Haggis
- 2005 Amanda Awards
- Nominated - Best Foreign Feature Film — Clint Eastwood
- 2005 American Cinema Editors (Eddies)
- Nominated - Best Edited Feature Film — Joel Cox
- 2005 American Screenwriters Association
- 2005 Art Directors Guild
- Nominated - Feature Film - Contemporary Film — Henry Bumstead, Jack G. Taylor Jr.
- 2005 Black Reel Awards
- Nominated - Best Supporting Actor — Morgan Freeman
- 2005 Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards
- 2005 Casting Society of America (Artios)
- Nominated - Best Casting for Feature Film: Drama — Phyllis Huffman
- 2006 - César Award
- 2005 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards
- Won - Best Director — Clint Eastwood
- 2005 Directors Guild of America
- 2005 Director's Guild of Great Britain
- Nominated - Outstanding Directorial Achievement in International Film — Clint Eastwood
- 2005 ESPY Awards
- Nominated - Best Sports Movie
- 2005 Florida Film Critics Circle
- 2005 62nd Golden Globe Awards
- 2006 Grammy Awards
- 2006 Billie Award
- Nominated - Entertainment (Best film)
- 2005 Image Awards
- 2005 MTV Movie Awards
- Nominated - Best Female Performance — Hilary Swank
- 2005 Motion Picture Sound Editors (Golden Reel Award)
- 2004 National Board of Review of Motion Pictures
- Special Achievement Award — Clint Eastwood, for producing, directing, acting, and composing.
- 2004 New York Film Critics Circle Awards
- Won - Best Director — Clint Eastwood
- 2005 PGA Golden Laurel Awards
- 2004 Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards
- 2005 Screen Actors Guild Awards
- Won - Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role — Hilary Swank
- Won - Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role — Morgan Freeman
- Nominated - Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
The film was released on DVD on July 12, 2005, and all editions of the Region 1 DVD, except for the "Deluxe Edition", came with a paperback copy of the book Rope Burns: Stories from the Corner. An HD DVD release was issued on April 18, 2006. The Blu-ray Disc version was released on November 14, 2006. It was the first Best Picture winner released on either high-definition optical disc format in the U.S.; it and Unforgiven were the only ones released in the U.S. on HD DVD prior to the first one released in the U.S. on Blu-ray, Crash.
- Eliot (2009), p. 309
- Hughes, p. 156
- Hughes, p. 157
- Hughes, p. 160
- "Million Dollar Baby (2004)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
- Million Dollar Baby (2004). Rotten Tomatoes.
- Million Dollar Baby. Metacritic.
- Ebert, Roger (7 January 2005). "Million Dollar Baby". rogerebert.com. Retrieved 26 November 2007.
- Medved, Michael (17 February 2005). "My 'Million Dollar' Answer". OpinionJournal/Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Retrieved 26 November 2007.
- Million Dollar Missed Opportunity
- The New York Times > Arts > Frank Rich: How Dirty Harry Turned Commie
- "Movie & TV News @ IMDb.com - Studio Briefing - 27 January 2005". Internet Movie Database. 25 January 2007. Retrieved 27 November 2007.
- Roger Ebert (29 January 2005). "Critics have no right to play spoiler". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 27 November 2007.
- IrishGaelicTranslator.com. Million Dollar Baby movie
- Wes Davis Fighting Words. New York Times, 26 February 2005
- Eliot (2009), p. 311
- Roger Ebert (14 December 2004). ":: rogerebert.com :: Reviews :: Million Dollar Baby (xhtml)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 24 November 2007.
- Susan Wloszczyna (23 January 2005). "USATODAY.com - 'Million Dollar' mystery". USA Today. Retrieved 24 November 2007.
- Jeffrey Overstreet (7 January 2005). "Million Dollar Baby". Christianity Today. Archived from the original on 15 November 2007. Retrieved 24 November 2007.
- Mark Moring (18 January 2005). "Spoil the Ending?". Christianity Today. Archived from the original on 15 November 2007. Retrieved 24 November 2007.
- Michael Atkinson (13 December 2004). "Aging Bull". The Village Voice. Retrieved 24 November 2007.
- Ian Grey (12 January 2005). "Kid Gloves". Baltimore City Paper. Retrieved 24 November 2007.
- Historical HD DVD Release Dates, High-Def Digest, accessed 12 March 2012
- Historical Blu-ray Release Dates, High-Def Digest, accessed 12 March 2012
- Eliot, Marc (2009). American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood. Harmony Books. ISBN 978-0-307-33688-0.
- Hughes, Howard (2009). Aim for the Heart. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84511-902-7.
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