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Stephen Gaghan

Stephen Gaghan

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: May 6, 1965 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Louisville, Kentucky, USA Profession: screenwriter, author, director, script reader, receptionist

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Having launched his career on television, screenwriter and director Stephen Gaghan wrestled with his personal demons to emerge as the Oscar-winning writer of the acclaimed sociopolitical crime epic, "Traffic" (2000). Before that, Gaghan had risen up the ranks as a staff writer on popular shows like "New York Undercover" (Fox, 1994-98), "NYPD Blue" (ABC, 1993-2005) and "The Practice" (ABC, 1997-2004), only to hit rock bottom with his heroin and crack addictions, which forced him to finally reach out and seek recovery. When he did, Gaghan shifted gears to features, starting with the military courtroom thriller "Rules of Engagement" (2000), before working with director Steven Soderbergh on the sprawling "Traffic," which became a critical darling and box office hit. From there, he became much in demand as a script doctor on numerous studio films while continuing to move on his own projects. Gaghan sat down in the director's chair for the first time with the little-known teen thriller "Abandon" (2002) before earning the dubious distinction of being credited as one of the screenwriters on "The Alamo" (2004), one of the biggest box office flops of all time. But he redeemed himself with his second directing...

Having launched his career on television, screenwriter and director Stephen Gaghan wrestled with his personal demons to emerge as the Oscar-winning writer of the acclaimed sociopolitical crime epic, "Traffic" (2000). Before that, Gaghan had risen up the ranks as a staff writer on popular shows like "New York Undercover" (Fox, 1994-98), "NYPD Blue" (ABC, 1993-2005) and "The Practice" (ABC, 1997-2004), only to hit rock bottom with his heroin and crack addictions, which forced him to finally reach out and seek recovery. When he did, Gaghan shifted gears to features, starting with the military courtroom thriller "Rules of Engagement" (2000), before working with director Steven Soderbergh on the sprawling "Traffic," which became a critical darling and box office hit. From there, he became much in demand as a script doctor on numerous studio films while continuing to move on his own projects. Gaghan sat down in the director's chair for the first time with the little-known teen thriller "Abandon" (2002) before earning the dubious distinction of being credited as one of the screenwriters on "The Alamo" (2004), one of the biggest box office flops of all time. But he redeemed himself with his second directing effort, "Syriana" (2005), in which he again took a complex sociopolitical issue - Middle Eastern oil - and turned it into a complex, but personal drama that earned both critical praise and box office success. Gaghan's ability to weave labyrinth interlocking stories into highly-relatable entertainment made him one of the most sought-after and highly praised screenwriters of his day.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Syriana (2005) Director
2.
  Abandon (2002) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Alfie (2004)
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Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in Louisville, Kentucky
:
While attending college in Massachusetts, began catalog company called Fallen Empire Inc; company eventually failed
:
Moved to NYC
1992:
Arrested on felony drug charges for possession of cocaine and heroin in October; later pleaded guilty to lesser charges of drug possession; sentenced to conditional discharge
1993:
Settled in L.A.
1995:
With Michael R Perry, served as story editor and teleplay writer for the short-lived CBS series "American Gothic"
:
Was on writing staff of the ABC drama "NYPD Blue"; shared Emmy award for the "Where's Swaldo?" episode; Perry also contributed to award-winning script
:
Served as executive story editor and occasional writer on the ABC drama series "The Practice"; continued collaboration with Michael R Perry
1997:
Served as co-producer on the extremely short-lived (two episode) run of the NBC series "Sleepwalkers"; also co-wrote episodes
2000:
Feature film debut as screenwriter, "Rules of Engagement"
2000:
Penned the screenplay for "Traffic", based on the British miniseries "Traffick"; as he told <i>The New York Times</i> (February 5, 2000), some aspects of the film were based on his own experiences as a drug addict; received Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay
2002:
Made feature directorial debut with "Abandon"; also scripted
2005:
Helmed the geopolitical thriller "Syriana," based on the real-life memoirs of CIA agent Robert Baer and starring George Clooney and Matt Damon; earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay
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Education

Kentucky Country Day School: Louisville , Kentucky - 1983

Notes

Gaghan had his short story, "The Year With No Winter", published in The Iowa Review in 1990.

On his upbringing in Louisville, Gaghan (who admits to having "an addictive personality"), told the Los Angeles Times (January 7, 2001):

"It's a town where smoking cigarettes is jingoistic," he says, referring to the local tobacco industry. "It's a city that's all about booze, tobacco and horse racing. . . .

"In Louisville, there are a lot of euphemisms. I remember when an aunt or an uncle would disappear for two weeks, we were told, they were 'taking the waters,' which I later learned meant they were drying out somewhere. It was a hard-drinking environment. In Kentucky, you learn how to drink bourbon."

"People were asking me about where the movie came from, where I got the characters and situations for 'Traffic,' and I found myself starting to speak in code," he said. He would talk about research he had done in the drug culture, about unnamed acquaintances, but he never admitted the core truth: that a lot of it came from his own life.

"Part of the recovery process is a commitment to truth, and I began to feel that I was not being truthful," he said. "The stigma and shame of drug addiction is part of what makes it difficult for people to raise their hand and ask for help, and I felt that by not being completely honest I was, in a way, perpetuating that stigma." --From The New York Times, February 5, 2000.

Gaghan estimates that he had been arrested some 20 to 30 times for misdemeanor charges related to his addictions, including three D.U.I.'s.

"I smoked crack in my office on the Universal lot, always with some heroin to even it out," he said. "I smoked crack in my office on the Fox lot. Oh God, what are people going to think when they read this? I will never work in this town again." --Gaghan to Rick Lyman, quoted in "The Screenwriter for 'Traffic' Says He Drew on His Past of Drug Use" in The New York Times, February 5, 2001.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Michael McCraine. Photographer. Met during his recovery process from drug addiction.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Tom Hague.
mother:
Betty Hague.
son:
Gardner Gaghan. Born c. April 2000.

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