CS Video Interview: Paul Haggis Delves Deep Into Third Person


It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since filmmaker Paul Haggis won two Academy Awards for his directorial debut Crash but now he’s back with his fourth film, Third Person, a similarly layered multi-story drama with an equally impressive cast that includes Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Mila Kunis, James Franco, Adrien Brody, Maria Bello and Israeli actress Moran Atias, who actually was somewhat of a muse in Haggis’ decision to write the film.

The main story involves Neeson as an author struggling to write his next great novel in Paris while facing the complicated distraction of his mistress, an up-and-coming writer played by Wilde; Brody plays an American businessman in Rome who encounters a beautiful woman in a bar (Atias) who is trying to get money to bring her daughter over from her home country; Mila Kunis is a New York woman who has been accused of trying to kill her son by her artist husband (Franco) and is doing everything she can to see him, while struggling to make ends meet.

There is a connection between the stories, not an overt or a blatant one, but one that gives the film far more depth than one might expect from the simple plots. The core of the film is in Haggis’ literary writing and the emotional performances he gets from the cast—easily the best dramatic performances we’ve seen from Wilde and Kunis to date.

ComingSoon.net sat down with Haggis earlier this week for the video interview below where we spoke to the filmmaker about what idea started him down the road to make his most personal film to date – the process involved in making a triptych of interlocking stories set in three different cities like this one and more.

Third Person opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, June 20 with plans to expand to other cities after that. Once you see the movie, you may have some questions about the connection between the stories and when you do, scroll down and read the rest of this article below the gallery, which talks about what might be a fairly big spoiler for the movie.

SPOILERS BELOW THIS POINT! If you plan on seeing the movie, please do so before reading further, because we discuss a plot point that almost literally gives away some of the mystery of the film that makes it so thought-provoking.

The connection between the three stories in the film becomes more obvious when Mila Kunis’ character, who works as a housemaid in New York, enters what is clearly the hotel rooms of Neeson and Wilde’s characters, which are in Paris, and some might wonder, “How is her character suddenly in Paris when we know she’s in New York?”

This is how Haggis explains this scene: “There are things even earlier than that that start happening that you can really look carefully for that should tell you that something’s wrong here. Adrien Brody’s character looks out the door at Bar Americano and a car passes, it’s a Mercedes and in the back seat is Olivia Wilde. It happens so quick and then you cut to her with her compact getting out of the car and you think it’s just a clever transition. There’s a painting on the street corner where Liam is standing looking into the art gallery, red, and if you look carefully, you see it’s Richard Weiss, and then that same painting shows up miraculously in New York in the studio. So there’s a lot of these things that if you watch carefully you go, ‘Whoa, what’s going on?’ so I wanted to ask, ‘Okay if these things can’t happen, then what’s happening?’ I put these stories in three different places for a reason so these characters could never cross and then suddenly they start crossing, so obviously we’re watching a man write and rewrite his whole life and try to play it out through these characters. I didn’t want it to be too obvious and in the end, the three characters quite literally lead him to something he doesn’t want to look at, something he’s been denying the entire time as he keeps throwing himself into affairs and his writing and all this stuff just so he doesn’t have to look at the one thing he doesn’t want to look at.”