“Mo cuishle means: my darling. My blood.”
MILLION DOLLAR BABY
The FX Toole by-line on the 2000 book, Rope Burns: Stories From the Corner , hid the identity of a 70-year-old first time published writer, an ex-bouncer, ex-bullfighter and alcoholic called Jerry Boyd. His short story trio stemmed from his life as a boxing manager and cut-man. The three stories were: The Monkey Look, Frozen Water and… Million $$$ Baby.
discovered it first
Her father would have loved it… She took it to one of The Godfather producers, Albert S Ruddy. She wanted to direct it. “I guarantee you will cry at the end.” (He did).
However, by the time Al had secured the rights, he had lost Anjelica to a Julie Roberts project. Paul Haggis, who co-created TV’s Walker, Texas Ranger with Ruddy, agreed to script if he could also direct.
From the get-go Ruddy saw one actress only for “ mo chuisle” Maggie Fitzgerald, the tragic girl boxer – Sandra Bullock. She quit for Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (!) when she could not have her choice of director: Robert Benton or Shekhar Kapur .
Al turned to Ashley Judd, who had already made two films with Morgan Freeman – Ruddy’s original Frankie Dunn. (Even before Clint came aboard, Morgan preferred Eddie “Scrap-Iron” Dupris). Judd was pricier than Bullock, though no one could understand why.
OK, Al Ruddy went for the actress with something neither Sandra or Ashley had – a Best Actress Oscar. When that news broke, Bullock’s agent called up to say Sandra was in. “Too late!” said Al.
In December 2003, Ruddy showed the script to a particular old friend. Clint read it as a favour, although having “all but retired” from acting. Of course, he fell for it and worried about how it might be handled by a first-timer. Clint hated directing and acting at once, but, er… could he direct? “That was a tough ten minutes for me,” said Haggis. “But in the 11th hour, I decided:
“Of course, I should let him direct it!
How often do you get to work with Clint Eastwood?”
Everything was set but the backing. Clint’s studio, Warners, were wary. So were other studios. “Nice cast, great script – but too dark,” was the word on Baby . Finally, with Lakeshore Entertainment in the mix, limiting Warners’ risk to the equivalent of a superstar’s salary, $15m, the green light went on… for Clint’s 57th acting role, his 25th film as a director, 21st as producer.
After the film’s triumph, Sandra Bullock was furious with tabloids suggesting she threw an Oscar chance away – to make, of all things, more of her Miss Congeniality froth. Not fair, she said. She had, after all, tried to get Baby made for years. And as for snubbing Clint Eastwood: “Total rubbish!”
“We had Million Dollar Baby with someone else for a while, trying to get it made. I couldn’t get it made. We tried and tried and tried. ‘Female boxing movies don’t sell’! I was like: “This is the most incredible piece.” I then started doing Miss Congeniality 2 and they got Hilary Swank. And they got Clint.”
Didn’t they, though!
The results of Oscarnight, February 27, 2005: a second best picture and best director awards for Clint, a second best actress for Hilary and a second supporting actor for Morgan.
As with Unforgiven in 1993, Clint lost an acting statuette – this time, his Frankie’s throaty voice was based on Al Ruddy’s. The following year, Paul Haggis won best director/picture for Crash .
Jerry Boyd missed it all. He died, at 72, in 2002.