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Stephen Gaghan

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Stephen Gaghan
Born (1965-05-06) May 6, 1965 (age 59)[1]
Alma materBabson College (B.A.)
Occupation(s)Film director, screenwriter
Years active1995–present
(m. 2007)

Stephen Gaghan (/ˈɡɡən/ GAY-gən;[2] born May 6, 1965) is an American screenwriter and director.[3] He is noted for writing the screenplay for Steven Soderbergh's film Traffic,[3] based on a Channel 4 series, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay,[4] as well as Syriana which he wrote and directed. He also wrote and directed the thriller Abandon and the family film Dolittle, and directed the drama Gold.

Childhood and education[edit]

Gaghan was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of the former Elizabeth Jane Whorton and her first husband, Stephen Gaghan (d. 1980), and a stepson of Tom Haag. He is a grandson of Jerry Gaghan, a newspaper columnist and drama critic for Variety and the Philadelphia Daily News.[5] Gaghan wrote in a 2001 article in Newsweek, "I also wanted to be a writer, like my grandfather, who carried a card in his wallet that read, "If you find me, call my son [my father] at this number..."[6]

In his final days of high school before graduation, Gaghan was expelled for driving a go-cart through the halls of the school. During the release of Traffic, a critic commented on one of the teen characters in the movie who is a drug addict and a straight-A student, calling it unrealistic, which Gaghan defended by stating that he had straight A's while he was addicted to drugs and alcohol. As Gaghan wrote in an article published in Newsweek in February 2001, "I wasn't much different from my peers, except where they could stop drinking after three or six or 10 drinks, I couldn't stop and wouldn't stop until I had progressed through marijuana, cocaine, heroin and, finally, crack and freebase--which seem for so many people to be the last stop on the elevator." Gaghan has stated that he began dealing with his addictions in 1997. "Over one long, five-day weekend, I had three separate heroin dealers get arrested," he said. "My dealer, my backup dealer and my backup-backup dealer. I was left alone, and I just hit that place, that total incomprehensible demoralization. That was the end of it; up five days straight, locked in the bathroom, convinced there was nowhere else to go, I had to kill myself, I'm going to kill myself. I just couldn't take another minute of it."[7]

He attended the University of Kentucky and was a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity.[8] He was a student on the Fall 1986 Voyage of the "Semester at Sea" Study Abroad Program where he attended classes on board the SS Universe and sailed around the world. He eventually graduated from Babson College in 1988 with a degree in screenwriting.[9][10] He also started a catalog company, Fallen Empire Inc., which he hoped would support his writing career.[citation needed]


Gaghan and Anna Deavere Smith at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival

Gaghan wrote the screenplay for Traffic, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2000. In addition to Traffic, Gaghan also directed and wrote the screenplays for Syriana (2005) and Abandon (2002); the former receiving comparable critical acclaim to Traffic, while the latter received negative reviews. Other writing credits include Rules of Engagement (2000), Havoc (2005), and The Alamo (2004), as well as a handful of episodes of various television series. Gaghan turned down the chance to adapt Dan Brown's novel, The Da Vinci Code.

In his television writing career, he won an Emmy Award for co-writing a NYPD Blue episode entitled Where's Swaldo, in 1997. In addition to NYPD Blue, he has also written for The Practice and New York Undercover.

He was slated to direct a film adaptation of Malcolm Gladwell's book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. He has also been hired by Warner Bros. to write the screenplay of the Dead Spy Running franchise written by author Jon Stock.[11] He is also set to direct crime thriller Candy Store.[12]

On January 19, 2017, it was announced that Ubisoft had hired Gaghan to direct the film adaptation of the popular video game The Division, but it was announced later that Gaghan was no longer attached to the project.[13][14]

Personal life[edit]

Gaghan has a son, Gardner (b. 1999), and a daughter, Elizabeth, who goes by the nickname of Betsy (b. 2001), from a previous relationship with actress Michael McCraine, whom he met in 1997 while at a recovery meeting.[15] On May 19, 2007, Gaghan married Marion "Minnie" Mortimer.[15] Together they have a daughter born in 2009[16] and a son born in 2014.[17]



Year Title Director Writer
2000 Rules of Engagement No Yes
Traffic No Yes
2002 Abandon Yes Yes
2004 The Alamo No Yes
2005 Havoc No Yes
Syriana Yes Yes
2016 Gold Yes No
2020 Dolittle Yes Yes

Uncredited revisions


Year Title Writer Producer Notes
1995 New York Undercover Yes No Episode "CAT"
1995–1996 American Gothic Yes No 7 episodes
1996 NYPD Blue Yes No Episode "Where's 'Swaldo"
1997 The Practice Yes No Episodes "First Degree: Part 1" and "Sex, Lies, and Monkeys: Part 2"
Sleepwalkers Yes Yes Episode "Night Terrors"

Acting roles[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2004 Alfie Adam
2008 Entourage Himself Episode "Welcome to the Jungle"

Video games[edit]

Personal appearances[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Title Award/Nomination
1996 NYPD Blue Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (For episode "Where's 'Swaldo")
2000 Traffic Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Edgar Award for Motion Picture Screenplay
Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay
Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated – National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay
Nominated – Satellite Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
2005 Syriana Edgar Award for Motion Picture Screenplay
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated – Robert Award for Best American Film
2016 Gold Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song (For the song "Gold")
2020 Dolittle Nominated – Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
Nominated – Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screenplay


  1. ^ a b Jason Buchanan (2014). "Stephan Gaghan - Biography - Movies & TV". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2014-03-29. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  2. ^ "Say How: G". National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled. Retrieved December 2, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Jason Buchanan (2014). "Stephen Gaghan". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2014-03-29.
  4. ^ Gaghan, Stephen (June 24, 2013). "How One Writer Turned a Love for Writing Into an Oscar- and Emmy-Award Winning Career". Indiewire.
  5. ^ "George Skinner, a Broadcast Pioneer". Broadcast Pioneers.
  6. ^ Gaghan, Stephen (2001). "The Enemy is Every One of Us". Newsweek.
  7. ^ Lyman, Rick (February 5, 2001). "The Screenwriter for 'Traffic' Says He Drew on His Past of Drug Use". The New York Times.
  8. ^ "Delta Tau Delta Fraternity". Oudelts.chapterspot.com.
  9. ^ "Babson at the movies" (PDF). Babson Magazine.
  10. ^ "Notable Alumni". Babson College. Retrieved 2020-01-16.
  11. ^ "Stephen Gaghan set to adapt 'Dead Spy'". The Hollywood Reporter. 2009-02-19. Archived from the original on 2009-02-23. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
  12. ^ "Jason Clarke And Omar Sy To Star In Stephen Gaghan Thriller 'Candy Store'". Deadline Hollywood. 4 April 2013. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  13. ^ Kroll, Justin (2018-04-19). "'Deadpool 2's' David Leitch to Direct Jessica Chastain, Jake Gyllenhaal in 'The Division' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 2019-03-25.
  14. ^ Kroll, Justin (January 19, 2017). "Stephen Gaghan to Direct 'The Division' Movie Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Chastain (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety.
  15. ^ a b L. Hamilton, William (May 27, 2007). "Stephen Gaghan and Minnie Mortimer". The New York Times.
  16. ^ Minnie Mortimer. "Minnie Mortimer". Guest of a Guest. Archived from the original on October 28, 2012. Retrieved November 15, 2012.
  17. ^ Colleen Crivello. "Mom Crush: Minnie Mortimer Gaghan". minimode. Retrieved October 16, 2016.

External links[edit]