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Paul Haggis was having a very good day. By a stroke of serendipity, or was it synchronicity?, he had been booked into a hotel that overlooks the location used as Madeleine’s apartment building in VERTIGO, one of Haggis’ favorite films. He’d ducked out just before talking to me in order to take a photo of iconic location and send it to his followers on Instagram.
Then it was back to work.
It is a sad truth of the press tour that the person you are talking to will probably have answered most of the questions you put to him or her several, if not several dozen times, in the court of the tour. It’s the nature of the beast. I like to try to bring up something that hasn’t been covered before if there’s time, and in the case of Paul Haggis, there was. And just to be contrary, I brought it up at the beginning of the interview. Haggis is a man with a profound sense of social justice, the which we saw in his Oscar™-winning film, CRASH. But his sense of mission goes beyond cinema to Artists for Peace and Justice (http://www.apjnow.org/), a charity he started in Haiti that brings education, hope, and even joy to the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. That he does more than just write checks speaks volumes about the man.
Of course we did move on to THIRD PERSON, a film that embraces ambiguity and imperfection with a sly, compassionate eye. A man with a ready laugh who exudes a genuine warmth, he spoke at length his implicit trust in his audience’s intelligence, coalescing different tones into a complementary whole, and how he coped during the two weeks he was forbidden to direct CRASH due to a heart attack
Fair warning, we did not, however, move on to Scientology. That’s been covered elsewhere, including an excellent book by Lawrence Wright, Going Clear. I was there to talk movies. Further fair warning, there is a spoiler for Antonioni’s BLOW UP.
THIRD PERSON is a film about truth, betrayal, and forgiveness. Told in three separate but oddly tangential stories, it follows a writer cheating on his wife in Paris with a mistress whose playfulness has a real bite to it, a corporate spy in Italy caught up in what may be the oldest scam going, and a shattered woman in New York desperately trying to reconnect with her son after a tragic accident. What follows is the harmony of the exoteric story and esoteric meaning that binds them together as the characters try to rebuild their lives after emotionally drowning from unimaginable tragedy. The film stars Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Adrian Brody, Mila Kunis, James Franco, Moran Atias, Kim Basinger, Maria Bello. And Loan Chabanol. Haggis directed from his own script. His previous work includes LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, and CASINO ROYALE. In addition to the two he won for Crash, he also received an Oscar™ for writing the screenplay for MILLION DOLLAR BABY.
(14:21) THIRD PERSON — Paul Haggis Interview.