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Paul Greengrass Honored At London Film Festival

Paul GreengrassPaul Greengrass 

Wednesday, October 31--------Truth be told, I left the London Film Festival on Monday morning, October 29th (also my birthday in case anyone wants to send me a belated box of chocolates). So, unfortunately, I missed an event that I truly wanted to cover. But through the art of the press release, I am able to report that on that same Monday evening (when I was blowing out I won't tell you how many candles), the Times BFI London Film Festival along with trade publication Variety presented the 2007 UK Achievement in Film Award to director Paul Greengrass.

There is perhaps no film career in the world that has blazed quite as hot quite as quickly as this year's honoree. In a span of just five years, he has moved from local celebrity with his work on British television to a sizzling hot career in Hollywood, as the Oscar-nominated director of last year's UNITED 93 and the heir apparent to the highly successful Jason Bourne trilogy.  THE BOURNE SUPREMACY (2004) and THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM (2007) have been hailed by international film critics as the most exciting and intelligent action series since James Bond.

Paul Greengrass started his filmmaking career with a super 8 camera he found in his art room in secondary school. The short movies he made were animation horror films, using old dolls, artist dummies, and the general art room clutter. After studying at Cambridge University, he got into the prestigious Granada Television School and spent the first ten years of his career roving global hot spots for the hard-hitting documentary series, World in Action.

In 1989, he directed his first fiction film for teleivsion, RESURRECTED, which won the OCIC Award at the Berlin Film Festival. He continued his career as a fiction filmmaker, working exclusively in the made-for-television genre, specializing in films that dealt with social and political issues, including OPEN FIRE (police scandal),  THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY (the first Gulf War) and THE MURDER OF STEPHEN LAWRENCE (the Northern Ireland conflict).  He imbued these films with a documentary-style realism that became more dynamic and intense with each film. In 2002, the made-for-television film BLOODY SUNDAY (which covered an intensely brutal and violent attack in the 1980s in the divided Northern Island) won the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival and Best Film award at the British Independent Film Awards, and was eventually released as a theatrical film around the world, to great acclaim. His follow-up OMAGH (2004), which also recounted a bloody confrontation in Northern Island, won the Best TV Movie BAFTA Award

It was only a matter of time before Hollywood came calling. The director was chosen to direct the second entry in the highly lucrative Jason Bourne franchise. THE BOURNE SUPREMACY (2004) was a major international hit and made even more money for Universal Pictures than the first film did. This allowed Greengrass to nudge the studio to make the first fiction film for the big screen to capture one of the memorable and tragic events of September 11.....the crash of United 93 in a field in Pennsylvania. The plane was allegedly targeting the White House or the Capitol Building, before it was brought down by the very brave passengers. UNITED 93 was the subject of much debate and even outright criticism (from those who had not seen it yet, natch), but the quality and respectful approach that Greengrass took to the material soon silenced all the critics, and he went on to receive an Oscar nomination and a BAFTA win for his direction of the film.

He then went on to direct the third of the Jason Bourne films, this summer's mega-hit THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM, again directing Matt Damon in what has become his signature role. The film has grossed over $400 Million worldwide and set an Opening Weekend record when it opened in July of this year. His next project, IMPERIAL LIFE IN THE EMERALD CITY, also stars Matt Damon, in a film about the war in Iraq, based on the stories told by Washington Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran about the chaos he viewed in the "war on terror". Greengrass was interviewed on stage at the National Film Theater before receiving his Award. Clips from his impressive body of work in television and film were shown, as well as a special sneak preview of scenes from his newest project, which will not be officially released until late 2008 by Universal Pictures. Sorry to have missed that one, but at least I had my birthday cake to keep me distracted.

Sandy Mandelberger, Awards Watch Editor


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