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Paul Greengrass

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Title: Paul Greengrass  
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Subject: Captain Phillips (film), The Bourne Supremacy (film), 60th British Academy Film Awards, ITV Granada, World in Action
Collection: 1955 Births, Alumni of Queens' College, Cambridge, Alumni of the University of Cambridge, Best Director Bafta Award Winners, British Film Directors, British Male Screenwriters, British Republicans, British Screenwriters, Empire Inspiration Award Winners, English Film Directors, English Male Writers, English Non-Fiction Writers, English Screenwriters, English-Language Film Directors, Living People, People Educated at Gravesend Grammar School, People Educated at Sevenoaks School, People from Cheam
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Paul Greengrass

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

Paul Greengrass (born 13 August 1955) is an English film director, 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 two in the Bourne action/thriller series, The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), 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).

Greengrass is ranked the fifth most commercially successful British director since 2001 after David Yates, Christopher Nolan, Mike Newell and Ridley Scott.[1] He is currently the president of Directors UK.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Career 2
    • Early career in journalism 2.1
    • Film 2.2
    • Future projects 2.3
    • Directors UK 2.4
    • Unmade projects 2.5
  • Filmography 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Early life and education

Greengrass was born in Cheam, Surrey, England. His mother was a teacher and his father a river pilot and merchant seaman.[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]


Early career in journalism

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 England.[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]


Bloody Sunday
Early films

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 co-wrote the screenplay for Omagh, which depicted the 1998 bombing of Omagh and 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

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.

The Bourne Supremacy

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.

United 93
United 93

In 2006, Greengrass directed United 93, a film based on the 11 September 2001 hijacking of United Airlines Flight 93. The film received immense critical acclaim, particularly for Greengrass' again 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.

The Bourne Ultimatum

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.

Green Zone

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.[7] 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 fictionalized action thriller only loosely inspired by events in the book.

Captain Phillips
Captain Phillips

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 summer of 2012 in Massachusetts, Virginia and Malta and was released on 11 October 2013.[8]

Future projects

The Fear Index

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.[9]

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.[10]

Bourne 5

Universal Pictures stated at a media conference in Los Angeles, that they are likely to release more Bourne films, despite The Bourne Legacy being given mixed reviews by critics.[11] In a December 2012 interview, Matt Damon has revealed that he and Greengrass are interested in returning for the next film as Jason Bourne and the director respectively. Damon is reported stating that although he had not seen Legacy, he intends to do so because not only is he curious to see it, but also because he has enjoyed Jeremy Renner in everything he has seen him in. Damon does however believe that if he is to return for the next film, Renner would not likely be in it too and would not have Bourne and Cross joining forces and working together.[12] On 21 February 2013 it was confirmed that a Bourne 5 was being planned.[13][14] On 2 August 2013, Universal has hired Tony Gilroy to pen the film's script and Renner will be returning as Cross.[15] On 10 October 2014 it was confirmed by Matt Damon that he is returning for the fifth Jason Bourne movie with Paul Greengrass in the directors seat. In a statement Matt Damon said that "It'll be in 2016 when the movie will actually come out. [Director] Paul Greengrass is going to do another one and that's all I ever said. I just needed him to say yes".[16]


1984. James Graham will write the screenplay.[17]

Directors UK

In June 2008, he was one of many British directors to set up Directors UK and is currently the president of the board.[18][19]

Unmade projects

Greengrass was initially attached to direct the film adaptation of Watchmen. Greengrass's version was not set in the alternate 1980s of the graphic novel, but in the modern world. However the production was shut down a few weeks before filming was due to start and the eventual Watchmen film, far closer to the graphic novel, was directed by Zack Snyder.


Greengrass (left) with Tom Hanks, and Japanense Prime Minister Shinzō Abe at the Tokyo International Film Festival
Year Film Credited as Notes
Director Writer Producer
1989 Resurrected Yes
1994 Open Fire Yes Yes
1996 The One That Got Away Yes Yes
1997 The Fix Yes Yes
1998 The Theory of Flight Yes
1999 The Murder of Stephen Lawrence Yes Yes
2002 Bloody Sunday Yes Yes
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 Untitled Bourne fifth film Yes Yes Yes


  1. ^ Statistical Yearbook 2011: 7.3 UK directors. UK Film Council.
  2. ^ Brown, Mick (4 August 2007). "Straight shooting". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  3. ^ "Thinking the unthinkable wins accolades" (PDF). Cambridge Alumni News. Easter 2006. p. 4. 
  4. ^ "Stay true to your point of view, Bourne director says". 27 November 2012. 
  5. ^ "The timber-frame two and the wild, wild net". Retrieved 7 March 2012. 
  6. ^ Thorpe Vanessa (5 August 2007). "Hollywood's Favourite Brit". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  7. ^ Diane Garrett (6 June 2007). "Damon, Greengrass re-teaming". Variety. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  8. ^ Captain Phillips at the Internet Movie Database
  9. ^ "Paul Greengrass In ‘Fear Index,’ Robert Zemeckis Out Of ‘Replay’ As He Takes ‘Flight’ With Denzel Washington". Deadline. 
  10. ^ "'"Paul Greengrass in Talks for Aaron Sorkin-Penned 'The Trial of the Chicago 7. The Hollywood Reporter. 23 July 2013. 
  11. ^ Universal Pictures say they will make more bourne films: BBC News
  12. ^
  13. ^ Bourne 5 and Snow White Sequel Updates; Fifty Shades of Grey in Summer 2014?
  14. ^ Universal Boss Talks Up Bourne 5
  15. ^ New ‘Bourne’ Chapter In Works At Universal For Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross Character
  16. ^ [2]
  17. ^ "Paul Greengrass To Direct 1984 Adaptation". Retrieved 20 November 2014. 
  18. ^ "Paul Greengrass - President".  
  19. ^ "Inside Story: In the right direction - the cream of Britain's television directing talent".  

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