Study Guide

Crash Behind the Scenes

  • Director

    Paul Haggis

    Haggis: a Scottish dish made from the heart, lungs, and liver of a sheep boiled inside its own stomach. Paul Haggis: Canadian, a former Scientologist, a Hollywood film director. We're not sure which one we'd rather have at dinner.

    Paul Haggis' directing résumé isn't as long or as varied as his writing one. Prior to directing Crash, Haggis directed a few episodes of TV shows like Family Law and Due South. Don't worry: we haven't heard of them, either. He also wrote the Academy Award-winning Million Dollar Baby, which basically involves Hilary Swank playing Rocky, but he did not direct it.

    Post-Crash, Haggis directed In the Valley of Elah (2007), which is a much more cumbersome title than the snappy Crash, The Next Three Days (2010), and Third Person (2013), working with Russell Crowe, Liam Neeson, Charlize Theron, and Mila Kunis in the process.

    Haggis' personal life, incidentally, is as interesting than any of these movies. In 2011, he broke ties with the Church of Scientology and told all to New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright. The Haggis-fueled exposé eventually turned into the book Going Clear, as well as the HBO documentary of the same name. Without Haggis, we may never have known of Tom Cruise's love for bee pollen. (Source)

  • Screenwriter

    Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco

    What do Scooby-Doo, Sandra Bullock, and Gary Coleman all have in common? They've all spoken words written by Paul Haggis. Remember when Sandra Bullock said, "What you talkin' 'bout Willis?" and then devoured a box of Scooby snacks? Wait. We don't, either. We must have gotten a few of his scripts confused.

    Anyway, before writing Crash (2005) and Million Dollar Baby (2004), Haggis worked as a TV writer, cranking out scripts for shows like The Facts of Life, Diff'rent Strokes, and The Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Puppy Hour. That's quite the résumé.

    Maybe because a couple of his shows had one or two Black people in them, Paul Haggis found himself qualified to write a movie about race. After being carjacked in real life in 2001, Haggis started brainstorming a movie in which he would try to figure out the identities of the carjackers. "Were they best friends or had they just met that night? Did they do this a lot or was this the first time?" he asked himself. (Source)

    He eventually wrote a fictionalized account of his incident, attempting to draw broader conclusions.

    Haggis' writing partner, Bobby Moresco, worked with him on the show EZ Streets and later created the short-lived NBC drama The Black Donnellys (2007). Despite the title, that show was not about race.

    Together, the two received an Oscar for Best Writing, Original Screenplay in 2006. Paul Haggis also directed the film, so check out our "Director" page for more.

  • Production Studio

    Bob Yari Productions, DEJ Productions, Distributed by Lionsgate

    Bob Yari is best known for two things: Crash, and going broke. When founder Bob Yari filed for bankruptcy in 2008, Variety couldn't resist the headline "Bob Yari Crashes into Chapter 11." Besides those two big events, Yari also produced The Painted Veil, Prime, and indie hit Thumbsucker. (Source)

    DEJ was a distributor originally owned by Blockbuster Video, which was a store people had to physically go to in order to rent movies before they started to get magically streamed onto their screens at home. DEJ shifted to a co-production role with Monster, the movie that proved that with enough makeup, Charlize Theron could be ugly. After the success of Monster and Crash, DEJ was purchased by First Look Studios. (Source)

    First Look folded in 2006, disappearing even before Blockbuster did.

  • Production Design

    California Dreamin'

    Crash was filmed on location in southern California, and it gives us more views of LA and seedy convenience stores than we ever wanted.

    Just kidding. We can't get enough seedy convenience stores.

    In addition to its locations, Crash has a lot of storylines, which means there's a lot of editing to ensure that we don't get confused about who crashes into whom. To keep his crashes straight, in fact, Paul Haggis brought on editor Hughes Winborne, a man who, were he chosen for his name alone, would be a good choice.

    But Winborne brought with him a few impressive credits, too. Prior to Crash, he edited Billy Bob Thornton's hit Sling Blade (1996). He also worked on the Matt Dillon film Employee of the Month (2004), in which Pam from The Office plays a hooker named Whisper.

    Winborne is the best at editing, at least according to the Academy, which gave him an Oscar for Crash. Winborne also appears to be the editor of choice for movies with an opinion on race, like The Help (2011) and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).

  • Music (Score)

    Mark Isham

    No, Dave Matthews Band's "Crash Into Me" isn't on the soundtrack. Nor is Usher's "Crash."

    Instead, most of the film is scored by Mark Isham. His music is dramatic and atmospheric, perfect for the movie's montages and slow-motion scenes. His song "In the Deep" was nominated for Best Original Song, but it lost to "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from the movie Hustle & Flow.

    Isham wasn't too broken up by the loss. He kept on writing music for film, scoring Cameron Diaz's illiteracy in In Her Shoes (2005), Josh Hartnett in The Black Dahlia (2006), and the never-ending Disney fanfiction TV show Once Upon a Time.

  • Fandoms

    Since winning the Academy Award for Best Picture over Brokeback Mountain, Crash has developed an anti-fandom. The Awl declared it "The Most Loathsome Best Picture of All Time," saying, "This movie needs to keep suffering, because it will not stop hurting us" (source).

    Well, then.

    Paul Haggis himself told The Guardian in 2015 his thoughts about his own movie: "Was it the best film of the year? I don't think so" (source). In the same interview, he continued, "Crash, for some reason, affected people, it touched people. […] Now, however, for some reason that's the film that touched people the most that year. So I guess that's what they voted for, something that really touched them. And I'm very proud of the fact that Crash does touch you."