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Paul Greengrass: David Lean Lecture 2014

19 March 2014

Discover what director Paul Greengrass has to say about the film industry today in this summary of his 2014 Film Lecture.

BAFTA-winning director Paul Greengrass delivered the annual David Lean Lecture on 18 March at BAFTA's Headquarters, 195 Piccadilly, where he discussed his first experiences of cinema, the failures that shaped his success and why young directors are in desperate need of UK filmmaking guilds.

Paul Greengrass: David Lean Lecture 2014BAFTA/Jamie Simonds

Download the full lecture and Q&A transcript > Paul Greengrass David Lean Lecture Transcript (220.4 KB)

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Lecture Details:

Paul Greengrass opened the event by paying homage to David Lean, revealing how he was influenced by Lean from a young age and that one of his earliest experiences of cinema was going to see Doctor Zhivago with his father.

He then mused on how a love for cinema is born out childhood escapism and when reading about other director's lives, "this is the common factor."

The roots of making films lie in childhood loneliness.

Greengrass went on to discuss his early career, and how the poor choice to direct The Theory Of Flight was a turning point for him as a director. "I had no point of view on the material" and this led Greengrass to the conclusion that he needed to identify the film he wanted to make in order to succeed.

Offering advice for aspiring young directors, Greengrass added that "directing is a craft - it's not something you're born with, it's something you get better at with time." He claimed that young directors are not getting the same opportunities as those in the US due to the lack of filmmaking guilds that prove so valuable for those starting out across the pond.

You have to have something to say and you have to burn with an inner desire to say it.

Discussing his own experiences of Hollywood, Greengrass re-lived his anxiety when shooting The Bourne Supremacy in 2004. Greengrass remembered asking himself, "Would I recognise the films I made there?", having established himself in British cinema with Bloody Sunday in 2002 and honed his style for the small and big screen in the UK.

Greengrass then went into detail about the relationship between fact and dramatisation in many of his films. Greengrass said he is driven by authentic representation on screen, explaining that "if you get the right mix of professional actors and non-professional actors, something beautiful happens. Something without artifice." However, this advocation for the factual and fictional merge on screen, was not made without acknowledging that "reality is being turned into a commodity" and the audience should be wary of that.

In the end, I trust audiences to know the difference between the truth and a lie.

Throughout the talk, the director entertained the enthusiastic audience with anecdotes and tales from his 25 year long career as a director of TV and film.

During the Q&A, Greengrass told the audience the story behind the emotional and memorable scene in Captain Phillips, where Tom Hanks is sat in the medical room alongside a real life on-duty medical officer from the ship, who had no idea that she was to be part of filming that day. Greengrass claimed that the scene didn't work as they originally intended and that in the raw energy of this blind panic, a "rather beautiful and creative thing" was born.

Greengrass wrapped up the lecture by revealing that he would consider a move back to television, and offered his final words of wisdom to young directors in the audience who thanked him for his insight into filmmaking.


Paul Greengrass: David Lean Lecture 2014BAFTA/Jamie Simonds


  • 2013 Captain Phillips
  • 2010 Green Zone
  • 2007 The Bourne Ultimatum
  • 2006 United 93
  • 2004 The Bourne Supremacy
  • 1998 The Theory Of Flight
  • 1989 Resurrected

!! Awards:

Greengrass has won four BAFTA Awards: one for Director (United 93), two for Single Drama (Omagh, The Murder Of Stephen Lawrence) and The Alan Clarke Award.

He has been nominated for a further six: two for Director (Captain Phillips, The Bourne Ultimatum), two for British Film (The Bourne Ultimatum, United 93) one for Original Screenplay (United 93)and one for Single Drama(Bloody Sunday).

His recognitions also include one Oscar nomination for United 93 and a Golden Globe nomination for Captain Phillips.

About the David Lean Lecture:

The Academy's annual David Lean Lecture is generously funded by The David Lean Foundation. Delivered by some of the world’s best and most compelling filmmakers, these lectures are designed to educate, inform and inspire practitioners by providing an insight into their work and creative achievements.

The lecture series also serves to carry on the legacy of the great director David Lean, one of the founders of the British Film Academy (as it was then known) in 1947 and a continuing inspiration to many through his exceptional body of work.