Oscar Directors: Greengrass, Paul–Background, Career, Awards

September 17, 2020

Paul Greengrass Career Summation

Occupational Inheritance: NA

Nationality: UK

Social Class: middle; mother teacher; father a river pilot and merchant seaman

Race/Ethnicity: Irish


Formal Education:


First Film: 34


First Oscar Nomination: United 93, 2006, 51

Gap between First Film and First Nom: 17

Other Oscars:

Other Oscar Nominations:

Oscar Awards:

Nominations Span:

Genre (specialties): dramatizations of historic events, signature use of hand-held cameras.


Last Film:


Career Length:

Career Output:



Death: NA

Paul Greengrass (August 13, 1955) is an English film director, film producer, screenwriter, and former journalist.

He specializes in dramatizations 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 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. In 2017, Greengrass was honored with a British Film Institute Fellowship.

Greengrass was born August 13, 1955 in Cheam, Surrey, England. His mother was a teacher and his father a river pilot and merchant seaman. His brother, Mark Greengrass, has become 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.

Greengrass first worked as a director in the 1980s, for the ITV current affairs program 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.

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.

In 2006, Greengrass directed United 93, a film based on the September 11, 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.

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

Captain Phillips, Greengrass’s 2013 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 US, and Malta.

Greengrass returned to direct the fifth Jason Bourne film, Jason Bourne, with Damon starring again, released July 29, 2016.

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 October 10, 2018.

Greengrass professes irreligion but has “great respect for the spiritual way.”

He is a supporter of Crystal Palace FC. He has had many banter-filled football chats on the Mayo & Kermode Film Program when publicizing his films.


1989 Resurrected Yes
1998 The Theory of Flight 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 — BAFTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated — Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing–Feature
Nominated — AACTA International Award for Best Direction
Nominated — Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Director
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Director
2016 Jason Bourne Yes Yes Yes
2018 22 July Yes Yes Yes
2020 News of the World Yes Yes
2022 1984 Yes


Director Writer Producer
1984-1987 World in Action Yes Yes Documentary television series (Director in 2 episodes / Producer in 10 episodes)
1992 Cutting Edge Yes Yes Documentary television series (Episode: “Coppers”)
1993 Crime Story Yes Yes Television series (Episode: “When the Lies Run Out: The Ian Spiro Story”)
1994 Open Fire Yes Yes Television film
1995 Kavanagh QC Yes Television series (Episode: “The Sweetest Thing”)
The Late Show Yes Yes Documentary television series (Episode: “Sophie’s World”)
1996 The One That Got Away Yes Yes Television film
1997 The Fix Yes Yes Television film
1999 The Murder of Stephen Lawrence Yes Yes Television film
2004 Omagh Yes Yes Television film; British Academy Television Award Best Single