Paul Greengrass

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Paul Greengrass
Bourne 3 Premiere Greengrass.jpg
Greengrass at the Bourne Ultimatum premiere in Hollywood, 2007
Born (1955-08-13) 13 August 1955 (age 65)
Cheam, Surrey, England
Alma mater Queens' College, Cambridge
Occupation Film director, screenwriter, producer
Years active1978present
Board member of Directors UK (president)

Paul Greengrass (born 13 August 1955) is a British film director, film producer, screenwriter, and former journalist. He specialises in dramatisations of historic events and is known for his signature use of hand-held cameras.


His early film Bloody Sunday (2002), about the 1972 shootings in Derry, Northern Ireland, won the Golden Bear at 52nd Berlin International Film Festival. Other films he has directed include three in the Bourne action/thriller series: The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), and Jason Bourne (2016); 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). In 2004, he co-wrote and produced the film Omagh , which won British Academy Television Award.

In 2007, Greengrass co-founded Directors UK, a professional organization of British filmmakers, and was its first president until 2014. In 2008, The Telegraph named him among the most influential people in British culture. [1] In 2017, Greengrass was honoured with a British Film Institute Fellowship. [2] [3]

Early life

Greengrass was born 13 August 1955 in Cheam, Surrey, England. His mother was a teacher and his father a river pilot and merchant seaman. [4] [5] His brother Mark Greengrass is a noted English historian.

Greengrass was educated at Westcourt Primary School, Gravesend Grammar School and Sevenoaks School, and attended Queens' College, Cambridge. He studied English literature at the same time as Roger Michell. [6]



Greengrass 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 Britain. [7] At the same time he co-authored the book Spycatcher (1987) with Peter Wright, former assistant director of MI5. It contained enough sensitive information that the British Government made an unsuccessful attempt to ban it. [4]


Greengrass (left) with Tom Hanks, and Japanense Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Tokyo International Film Festival Japanese PM Abe Shinzo, Tom Hanks, Yakusho Koji, Paul Greengrass, Mitani Koki @ 26th Tokyo International Film Festival Ri Ben Shou Xiang An Bei Jin San , Yi Suo Guang Si , tomuhankusuYu Di 26Hui Dong Jing Guo Ji Ying Hua Ji .jpg
Greengrass (left) with Tom Hanks, and Japanense Prime Minister Shinzō Abe at the Tokyo International Film Festival

Greengrass 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 1964 betting scandal that shook British football.

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 directed The Murder of Stephen Lawrence (1999), an account of Stephen Lawrence, a black youth whose murder was not properly investigated by the Metropolitan Police. His mother's investigations resulted in accusations about institutional racism in the police.

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). A schoolboy witness of the events of Bloody Sunday, Mullan was co-producer and appeared as a figure in Bloody Sunday.

In 2004, Greengrass co-wrote the television film Omagh with Guy Hibbert. Based on the bombing of 1998, the film was a critical success, winning British Academy Television Award for Best Single Drama. This was the first professional film that Greengrass had not directed; he was credited as a writer and producer. He had been working on The Bourne Supremacy . The film was directed by Pete Travis. It was the second film Greengrass had written about terrorism and mass killing in Ireland after Bloody Sunday .

Based on that film, Greengrass was hired to direct 2004's The Bourne Supremacy , a sequel to the 2002 film The Bourne Identity. The first film's director, Doug Liman, had left the project. The film starred Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, an amnesiac who realises he was once a top CIA assassin and is being pursued by his former employers. An unexpectedly major financial and critical success, it secured Greengrass's reputation and ability to get his smaller, more personal films made.[ citation needed ]

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

He returned to the money-making Bourne franchise. The Bourne Ultimatum , released in 2007, was an even bigger success than the previous two films. He was nominated for BAFTA Best Director at the 61st British Academy Film Awards.

In 2007, he co-founded Directors UK, a professional association for British directors. He served as founding president until July 2014. [8] [9]

Greengrass's 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. [10] The film was first announced as based on the bestselling, award-winning non-fiction book Imperial Life in the Emerald City , by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the Washington Post 's Baghdad bureau chief. But the final film is a largely fictionalised action thriller only loosely inspired by events in the book.

Captain Phillips , Greengrass's film about the Maersk Alabama hijacking in 2009, was based on the book A Captain's Duty. It starred Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, and Faysal Ahmed. It was shot in 2012 in Massachusetts and Virginia in the United States, and Malta. It was released in 2013.

Greengrass returned to direct the fifth Jason Bourne film, Jason Bourne , with Damon starring again. The film was released on 29 July 2016. [11]

In 2017, Greengrass began filming 22 July , a docudrama film following the 2011 Norway attacks perpetrated by Anders Behring Breivik and their aftermath, on location in Norway. The film was released on Netflix and in select theaters on 10 October 2018. [12]

Personal life

Greengrass has said that he professes irreligion but has "great respect for the spiritual way". [13]

He is a supporter of Crystal Palace F.C. [14] He has had many banter-filled football chats on the Kermode and Mayo's Film Review when publicising his films.



YearTitleCredited as
Director Writer Producer
1989 Resurrected YesNoNo
1998 The Theory of Flight YesNoNo
2002 Bloody Sunday YesYesNo
2004 The Bourne Supremacy YesNoNo
2006 United 93 YesYesYes
2007 The Bourne Ultimatum YesNoNo
2010 Green Zone YesNoYes
2013 Captain Phillips YesNoNo
2016 Jason Bourne YesYesYes
2018 22 July YesYesYes
2020 News of the World YesYesNo


YearTitleCredited asNotes
1993 Crime Story YesYesEpisode "When the Lies Run Out: The Ian Spiro Story"
1995 Kavanagh QC YesNoEpisode "The Sweetest Thing"

TV movies

YearTitleCredited asNotes
1994 Open Fire YesYesNo
1996 The One That Got Away YesYesNo
1997 The Fix YesYesNo
1999 The Murder of Stephen Lawrence YesYesNo
2004 Omagh NoYesYes British Academy Television Award Best Single Drama

Documentary series

YearTitleCredited asNotes
1984-1987 World in Action YesNoYesDirector of 2 episodes / Producer of 10 episodes
1992 Cutting Edge YesNoYesEpisode "Coppers"
1995 The Late Show YesYesNoEpisode "Sophie's World"
2017 Five Came Back NoNoNoStarring role as himself

Awards and nominations

YearFilmAcademy AwardsBAFTA AwardsGolden Globe Awards
2002 Bloody Sunday 51
2006 United 93 262
2007 The Bourne Ultimatum 3363
2013 Captain Phillips 6914
2020 News of the World 442
YearTitleAwards and nominations
2006 United 93 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 Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Outstanding British Film
2013 Captain Phillips Empire Inspiration Award
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

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