Paul Greengrass

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Paul Greengrass
Bourne 3 Premiere Greengrass.jpg
Greengrass at the Bourne Ultimatum premiere at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, California on 25 July 2007
Born (1955-08-13) 13 August 1955 (age 61)
Cheam, Surrey, England, UK
Residence England
Nationality British
Alma mater Queens' College, Cambridge
Occupation Film director, screenwriter, producer
Board member of Directors UK (president)

Paul Greengrass (born 13 August 1955) is an English film director, film producer, screenwriter and former journalist. He specialises in dramatisations of real-life events and is known for his signature use of hand-held cameras. His early film Bloody Sunday won the Golden Bear at 52nd Berlin International Film Festival. Other films he has directed include three in the Bourne action/thriller series: The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), and Jason Bourne (2016); United 93 (2006), for which he won the BAFTA Award for Best Director, and received an Academy Award for Best Director nomination, Green Zone (2010) and Captain Phillips (2013). In 2004 he co-wrote and produced the film Omagh, which won British Academy Television Award.

In 2007 Greengrass co-founded Directors UK, a professional organization of British filmmakers, and was its first President until 2014.

Early life[edit]

Greengrass was born 13 August 1955 in Cheam, Surrey, England. His mother was a teacher and his father a river pilot and merchant seaman.[1][2] He is the brother of noted English historian Mark Greengrass. Greengrass was educated at Westcourt Primary School, Gravesend Grammar School and Sevenoaks School and attended Queens' College, Cambridge.[3] In October 2012, he received an honorary degree from Kingston University in recognition of his “outstanding contribution to television and cinema".[4] Greengrass is a self-confessed Crystal Palace supporter.



He first worked as a director in the 1980s, for the ITV current affairs programme World in Action; his investigation of timber-framed house construction has been cited as preventing its widespread adoption in Britain.[5] At the same time he co-authored the notorious book Spycatcher with Peter Wright, former assistant director of MI5, which contained enough sensitive information that the British Government made an unsuccessful attempt to ban it.[6]


Greengrass (left) with Tom Hanks, and Japanense Prime Minister Shinzō Abe at the Tokyo International Film Festival

He then moved into drama, directing non-fiction made-for-television films such as The One That Got Away, based on Chris Ryan's book about SAS actions in the Gulf War and The Fix, based on the story of the betting scandal which shook British football in 1964.

His 1998 film The Theory of Flight starred Kenneth Branagh and Helena Bonham Carter, who played a woman with motor neurone disease. The film dealt with the difficult issue of the sexuality of people with disabilities.

Greengrass directed The Murder of Stephen Lawrence (1999), which told the story of Stephen Lawrence, a black youth whose murder was not properly investigated by the Metropolitan Police, and his mother's investigations, which led to accusations about institutional racism in the police.

Bloody Sunday (2002), depicted the 1972 Bloody Sunday shootings of Irish anti-internment activists by British soldiers in an almost documentary style; it shared First Prize at the 2002 Berlin Film Festival with Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away. Bloody Sunday was inspired by Don Mullan's politically influential book Eyewitness Bloody Sunday (Wolfhound Press, 1997). Mullan was a schoolboy witness of the events of Bloody Sunday. The book is credited as a major catalyst in the establishment of the new Bloody Sunday Inquiry chaired by Lord Saville. The inquiry, the longest running and most expensive in British legal history, led to an historic apology by Prime Minister David Cameron on 15 June 2010. Mullan was co-producer and actor in Bloody Sunday.

In 2004 Paul Greengrass co-wrote the television film Omagh with Guy Hibbert. Based on the bombing of 1998, the film was a critical success, winning British Academy Television Award for Best Single Drama. This was the first professional film that Paul Greengrass had not directed, instead being credited as a writer and producer, because of his work on The Bourne Supremacy. Instead the film was directed by Pete Travis. It was the second film Greengrass had written about terrorism and mass killing in Ireland after Bloody Sunday.

Based on that film, Greengrass was hired to direct 2004's The Bourne Supremacy, a sequel to the 2002 film The Bourne Identity, after the first film's director, Doug Liman, left the project. The film starred Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, an amnesiac who realises he was once a top CIA assassin and is now being pursued by his former employers. It proved to be an unexpectedly enormous financial and critical success, and secured Greengrass's reputation and ability to get his smaller, more personal films made.[citation needed]

In 2006, Greengrass directed United 93, a film based on the 11 September 2001 hijacking of United Airlines Flight 93. The film received critical acclaim, particularly for Greengrass' quasi-documentary-style directing. After receiving many Best Director awards and nominations from critics' circles (including the Broadcast Film Critics Association), Greengrass won the BAFTA award for Best Director at the 60th British Academy Film Awards and received an Oscar nomination for Achievement in Directing at the 79th Academy Awards. For his role in writing the film, he earned the Writers Guild of America Award and BAFTA nominations for Best Original Screenplay.

He followed this with a return to the Bourne franchise. The Bourne Ultimatum, released in 2007, was an even bigger success than the previous two films and provided him with yet another BAFTA nomination for Best Director at the 61st British Academy Film Awards.

In 2007, he co-founded Directors UK, a professional association for British directors, and was its first President until he stepped down from that position in July 2014.[7][8]

Green Zone stars Matt Damon as the head of a U.S. military team on an unsuccessful hunt for weapons of mass destruction in post-war Iraq. It was filmed in Spain and Morocco and released in 2010.[9] The film was first announced as being based on the bestselling, award-winning non-fiction book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, by the Washington Post's Baghdad bureau chief, Rajiv Chandrasekaran. However the final film is a largely fictionalised action thriller only loosely inspired by events in the book.

Captain Phillips, Greengrass's film about the Maersk Alabama hijacking in 2009, was based on the book A Captain's Duty, and starred Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi and Faysal Ahmed. It was shot in the 2012 in Massachusetts, Virginia and Malta and was released on 11 October 2013.

He is next set to direct an adaptation of Robert Harris's bestselling novel The Fear Index, a thriller centring on the connection of a fictional Geneva hedge fund to the 2010 Flash Crash. The film will be produced by Twentieth Century Fox.[10]

It was announced in late July 2013 that Greengrass was in final talks to direct Aaron Sorkin's script about the Chicago Seven, a project to which Steven Spielberg had been attached.[11]

Greengrass returned to direct the fifth Jason Bourne film, Jason Bourne, with Damon starring again. The film was released on 29 July 2016.[12]

Sony Pictures announced that Greengrass will be the director of an upcoming version of the George Orwell novel 1984. James Graham will write the screenplay.[13]


Year Film Credited as Notes
Director Writer Producer
1989 Resurrected Yes
1994 Open Fire Yes Yes Television
1996 The One That Got Away Yes Yes Television
1997 The Fix Yes Yes Television
1998 The Theory of Flight Yes
1999 The Murder of Stephen Lawrence Yes Yes Television
2002 Bloody Sunday Yes Yes
2004 Omagh Yes Yes British Academy Television Award Best Single Drama
2004 The Bourne Supremacy Yes
2006 United 93 Yes Yes Yes BAFTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Director
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Outstanding British Film
Nominated — Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Director
2007 The Bourne Ultimatum Yes Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Outstanding British Film
2010 Green Zone Yes Yes
2013 Captain Phillips Yes Empire Inspiration Award
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Picture
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated — Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Feature Film
Nominated — AACTA International Award for Best Direction
Nominated — Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Director
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Director
2016 Jason Bourne Yes Yes Yes
2018 1984 Yes
2018 Memphis Yes Yes


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