Paul Haggis has been quite vocal recently in accusing others of “abuse.” It seems a strange tack to take since Paul must himself admit that he never personally observed any of the incidents he claims occurred – largely because they were, in fact, fabricated by others. So why would Paul seize on specious rumors and attempt to assert them as true?
You must first understand how a con man works. One of his key tools is “distraction.” I can only assume that Paul seized upon this topic of abuse to distract from his own practice of abusing others. It is quite common amongst the guilty to accuse the innocent of activities in which they are engaged themselves, in the hope that such self-righteous railings will, in the public’s perception, make their own black hearts appear white.
In my post They Shoot Actors, Don’t They? I detail some of Paul’s abusive treatment of actors on the sets of his productions. Working with Paul day in, day out, over the course of a dozen years, I observed numerous such instances. On every show there was always someone Paul picked out for bullying, usually actors. What seemed to qualify these individuals for this treatment was a tendency not to take any of Paul’s b-s. They were self-determined, had backbone, and didn’t like Paul. Those without backbone – or stars who had more power than Paul – were safe.
Paul would get into big arguments with his chosen target, often publicly in front of the crew or others. I remember once literally pulling him off when he appeared ready to jump across the table and engage in a physical fight with an actor’s manager who was also a producer on that show. Behind the backs of his targets, Paul would engage in a campaign of character assassination, continually complaining about his target to the studio executives, fellow producers, and broadcast executives. He would complain to his writing staff constantly and seek their agreement and backup, until it became an “everybody knows” that the actor in question was “too difficult to work with.” It was a clever strategy to obscure the fact that the only person who was really having any difficulty with the “difficult actor” in question was Paul.
Most of these actors simply knew their own minds and weren’t afraid to speak up. That was enough to incur Paul’s wrath.
I was Paul’s right hand for more than a decade. I observed all of this close up and was often in the room when the fights took place or when Paul maligned his targets to others. I was often the buffer between Paul and his targets. And eventually I became a target too.
The beginning of the end began with an argument, of course. I wrote independently on many shows over the years. When Paul and I weren’t working on separate series, we would work together, developing new series or writing screenplays. During those periods, Paul and I wrote several pilot scripts and screenplays together, none of which I was credited on. He promised to give me shared credit on a pilot eventually but never did. Only when one of those shows was picked up, which was rarely, would I have the opportunity to write for solo credit again. On one such series, I had written a script of my own which should have been solo credited but after Paul did his usual producer’s polish, as he did with all scripts, he informed me that he wanted to take half the writing credit. I asked why. I had already co-written the pilot for no credit. I had given him a shared credit on the next script for that series, even though I had written that script entirely on my own. His answer was because it was “a good script” and he simply wanted his name on it.
After 12 years, I had finally had enough. An argument ensued. A big one – the kind of knock-down-drag-out-screaming fit that he pitched with every actor he bullied. And when he failed to change my mind, I turned and walked for the door, telling him I would take this to the Guild (the writers union) for this amounted to stealing credit. The next thing I knew Paul was running down the hall behind me. I was thrown against the door as he kicked me from behind. The brunt of the blow landed on my computer bag so I was unhurt, just shaken and stunned. I couldn’t believe it. I turned on him and asked “Did you try to hit me, Paul? Is that what you did?” He appeared choked with fury. He couldn’t respond. I got out as fast as I could.
The following day I called my lawyer and told her to tell the production company I wanted out. She did and they pleaded with me to stay. The executive in charge said he had spoken to Paul and warned him not to come near me again, and that Paul had promised there would be no further trouble. I was still frightened. For years I had heard about Paul having violent arguments with his wife that erupted into physical battles that would end with him locking her in the bathroom or closet. These incidents were always related as if his wife were the aggressor, but I knew better. Regardless, I was a senior producer on this series, a unique venture which the company had mortgaged itself to the hilt to produce. The stakes were very high for them and they were depending upon both me and Paul to make it a success. I was beginning to be recognized for my solo work in the industry, and I had my own separate development deal with this same company. I risked losing that if I left them in the lurch. So I stayed.
Paul agreed to give me half of the series episodes to produce on my own, without his involvement, so things went smoothly for the next few months. I barely saw Paul. Then a few months later, the inevitable happened and I was called down to Paul’s set to settle another quarrel. This time it was the co-star calling – an actor Paul had bullied since day one of the series. I arrived to find filming halted and the crew standing around in the alley waiting while Paul engaged in a screaming match with the actor on set — valuable production time lost while Paul indulged his temper. I dragged the actor out, calmed him down, and the production soon got back to work.
Later the actor came to me alone and begged me to do something about Paul. This actor was on location, 3,000 miles away from home for months on end, and was being brow-beaten almost daily by his vindictive boss. And I knew that Paul had been working very hard behind the scenes to trash the actor’s reputation with the network sufficiently to get him kicked off the show. Paul’s latest trick was to write into a script that the actor’s character must be hand-cuffed to a moving vehicle – then Paul insisted that the actor do the stunt himself, even though we had a legion of stunt men on the payroll standing around looking for something to do. The actor eventually did the stunt because Paul humiliated him into it, but he could take no more.
The actor was being driven half-crazy and was at his wit’s end. He stood there, on the edge of tears and asked “Isn’t there anybody who has the integrity to stand up to this guy?”
That was the moment that I realized that what I had been doing for all these years boiled down to nothing but protecting a vicious bully, just because he was my brother – and that the person who needed to demonstrate some integrity was me.
I stood up to Paul and would no longer cover for him or support him. The network president was finished with Paul too, as it turned out, and Paul was removed from the series. I took Paul aside and told him I would never work with him again. And that was the end of our relationship.
For twenty years Paul has done everything he can to drive a wedge between me and other family members and destroy my reputation and my career in an effort to make himself appear to be the wronged innocent. That’s what Paul does. He blames the people he has wronged for the very transgressions that he himself commits. So the next time you hear Paul rail against someone for having committed some terrible wrong…you will know exactly whom he has harmed and what he himself is doing behind closed doors.
A note for my brother: You can’t keep doing this, Paul. You can’t keep blackening the reputations of decent people in some pathetic effort to paint yourself as a hero and distract from your own misdeeds. Perhaps no one else in our family has courage enough, or loves you enough, to stop you from continuing to harm others. But I do. And I will.