Writer/director Paul Haggis is the first person in Academy Award history to win back-to-back Oscars for Best Screenplay. He won for the 2004 Clint Eastwood directed Million Dollar Baby, and then again in 2005 for Crash, which he directed himself. Crash went on to win Best Picture as well, perhaps foreboding good things for Haggis’s latest film Third Person, which he also wrote and directed.
The project is a romantic drama ensemble film bringing together Hollywood A-listers Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, Taken), Olivia Wilde (The Black Donnelly’s, Drinking Buddies), Kim Bassinger (L.A. Confidential, 8-Mile), Mila Kunis (Black Swan), Adrien Brody (The Pianist), Maria Bello (Thank You For Not Smoking), and Moran Atias (The Next Three Days), and Third Person prosecutes its plot in a in a similar vein to Crash – three interlocking storylines following different stages of relationships. The film follows the stages of love (beginning, middle, end) in three different locations, building a massive patchwork of human emotions.
The New York story centers on a woman who has been charged with attempted murder against her son, she denies the charges, but she is locked in a bitter custody battle for the boy with her ex-husband. In Paris, the plot focuses on a journalist who has recently left his wife for his new lover, a gossip columnist who can’t commit to the relationship because of a dark secret she is concealing. And finally in Rome, a successful American business man becomes involved with an Italian woman whose daughter is kidnapped and is being held for ransom. He steps in to be the hero, until he suspects it might be more of a set-up than a real kidnapping.
Haggis has been in the news recently for breaking his long established ties with the Church of Scientology. Haggis was appalled that the church was in favor of the California Proposition 8, stating that only a marriage between a man and a woman can be recognized. Haggis left the church in support of gay rights.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Haggis opted out of soul-trading with the traditional Hollywood studio system to create a Belgian-financed film. Stated Haggis:
I have a sweat-equals-satisfaction approach to filmmaking. In order to restore the challenge to myself I must have a really good sense that I could possibly fail and humiliate myself. I worked two and a half years on Third Person, writing 50 drafts, before I was satisfied. Being paralyzed with fear makes me very, very happy. I’m pleased with my work, I think it’s my best film.
Third Person will go to Toronto without U.S. distribution, but if audiences take to it as readily as Haggis suggests, it’s sure not to stay available for long.