Paul Greengrass

Paul Greengrass bigraphy, stories - Academy Award-nominated, BAFTA Award-winning English writer and film director

Paul Greengrass : biography

1955-8-13 –

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


  • Resurrected (1989)
  • Open Fire (1994)
  • The One That Got Away (1996)
  • The Fix (1997)
  • The Theory of Flight (1998)
  • The Murder of Stephen Lawrence (1999)
  • Bloody Sunday (2002)
  • The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
  • United 93 (2006)
  • The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
  • Green Zone (2010)
  • Captain Phillips (2013)
  • Fear Index

Personal life

Greengrass was born in Cheam, Surrey. His mother was a teacher and his father a river pilot and merchant seaman. He is the brother of noted English historian Mark Greengrass. Greengrass was educated at Westcourt Primary School, Gravesend Grammar School and Sevenoaks School and attended Queens’ College, Cambridge. In October 2012, he received an honorary degree from Kingston University in recognition of his ‘outstanding contribution to television and cinema’.


Early career in journalism

He 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 England. At the same time he co-authored the notorious book Spycatcher with Peter Wright, former assistant director of MI5, which contained enough sensitive information that the British Government made an unsuccessful attempt to ban it.


Early films

He then 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 story of the betting scandal which shook British football in 1964.

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 co-wrote the screenplay for Omagh, which depicted the 1998 bombing of Omagh, and directed The Murder of Stephen Lawrence (1999), which told the story of Stephen Lawrence, a black youth whose murder was not properly investigated by the Metropolitan Police and his mother’s investigations, which led to accusations about institutional racism in the police.

Bloody Sunday

Bloody Sunday (2002), depicted the 1972 Bloody Sunday shootings of Northern 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). Mullan was a schoolboy witness of the events of Bloody Sunday. The book is credited as a major catalyst in the establishment of the new Bloody Sunday Inquiry chaired by Lord Saville. The inquiry, the longest running and most expensive in British legal history, lead to an historic apology by Prime Minister David Cameron on 15 June 2010. Mullan was co-producer and actor in Bloody Sunday.

The Bourne Supremacy

Based on that film, Greengrass was hired to direct 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy, a sequel to the 2002 film The Bourne Identity, after the first film’s director, Doug Liman left the project. The film starred Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, an amnesiac who realizes he was once a top CIA assassin and is now being pursued by his former employers. It proved to be an unexpectedly enormous financial and critical success, and secured Greengrass’s reputation and ability to get his smaller, more personal films made.