For the 1941 film, see Million Dollar Baby (1941 film).
Not to be confused with Billion Dollar Baby.
Million Dollar Baby is a 2004 American sportsdrama film directed, co-produced, and scored by Clint Eastwood, and starring Eastwood, Hilary Swank, and Morgan Freeman. This film is about an underappreciated boxing trainer, the mistakes that haunt him from his past, and his quest for atonement by helping an underdog amateur boxer achieve her dream of becoming a professional.
Million Dollar Baby opened to wide acclaim from critics, and won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Its screenplay was written by Paul Haggis, based on short stories by F.X. Toole, the pen name of fight manager and "cutman" Jerry Boyd. Originally published under the title Rope Burns, the stories have since been republished under the film's title.
Margaret "Maggie" Fitzgerald, a waitress from a Missouri town in the Ozarks, shows up in the Hit Pit, a run-down Los Angeles gym owned and operated by Frankie Dunn, an old, cantankerous boxing trainer. Maggie asks Frankie to train her, but he initially refuses. Maggie works out tirelessly each day in his gym, even after Frankie tells her she's "too old" to begin a boxing career at her age. Eddie "Scrap-Iron" Dupris, Frankie's friend and employee—and the film's narrator—encourages and helps her.
Frankie's prize prospect, "Big" Willie Little, signs with successful manager Mickey Mack after becoming impatient with Frankie rejecting offers for a championship bout. With prodding from Scrap and impressed with her persistence, Frankie reluctantly agrees to train Maggie. He warns her that he will teach her only the basics and then find her a manager. Other than Maggie and his employees, the only person Frankie has contact with is a local priest, with whom he spars verbally at daily Mass.
Before her first fight, Frankie leaves Maggie with a random manager in his gym, much to her dismay; upon being told by Scrap that said manager deliberately put her up against his best girl (coaching the novice to lose) to give her an easy win, Frankie rejoins Maggie in the middle of the bout and coaches her instead to an unforeseen victory. A natural, she fights her way up in the women's amateur boxing division with Frankie's coaching, winning many of her lightweight bouts with first-round knockouts. Earning a reputation for her KOs, Frankie must resort to bribery to get other managers to put their trainee fighters up against her.
Eventually, Frankie takes a risk by putting her in the junior welterweight class, where her nose is broken in her first match. Frankie comes to establish a paternal bond with Maggie, who substitutes for his estranged daughter. Scrap, concerned when Frankie rejects several offers for big fights, arranges a meeting for her with Mickey Mack at a diner on her 33rd birthday. Out of loyalty, she declines. Frankie begrudgingly accepts a fight for her against a top-ranked opponent in the UK, where he bestows a Gaelic nickname on her. The two travel to Europe as she continues to win; Maggie eventually saves up enough of her winnings to buy her mother a house, but she berates Maggie for endangering her government aid, claiming that everyone back home is laughing at her.
Frankie is finally willing to arrange a title fight. He secures Maggie a $1 million match in Las Vegas, Nevada against the WBA women's welterweight champion, Billie "The Blue Bear", a German ex-prostitute who has a reputation as a dirty fighter. Overcoming a shaky start, Maggie begins to dominate the fight, but after a round has ended, Billie knocks her out with an illegal sucker punch from behind after the bell has sounded to indicate the end of the round. Before Frankie can pull the corner stool out of the way which was inappropriately placed on its side by Frankie's assistant, Maggie lands hard on it, breaking her neck and leaving her a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic.
Frankie is shown experiencing the first three of the five stages of grief: first seeking multiple doctors' opinions in denial, then blaming Scrap in anger and later trying to bargain with God through prayer.
In a medical rehabilitation facility, Maggie looks forward to a visit from her family, but they arrive accompanied by an attorney and only after having first visited Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood; their only concern is to transfer Maggie's assets to them. She orders them to leave, threatening to sell the house and inform the IRS of her mother's welfare fraud if they ever show their faces again.
As the days pass, Maggie develops bedsores and undergoes an amputation for an infected leg. She asks a favor of Frankie: to help her die, declaring that she got everything she wanted out of life. A horrified Frankie refuses, and Maggie later bites her tongue repeatedly in an attempt to bleed to death, but the medical staff saves her and takes measures to prevent further suicide attempts. The priest Frankie has harassed for 23 years, Father Horvak, warns him that he would never find himself again if he were to go through with Maggie's wishes.
Frankie sneaks in one night, unaware that Scrap is watching from the shadows. Just before administering a fatal injection of adrenaline, he finally tells Maggie the meaning of a nickname he gave her, Mo Chuisle (spelled incorrectly in the film as "mo cuishle"): Irish for "my darling, and my blood" (literally, "my pulse"). He never returns to the gym. Scrap's narration is revealed to be a letter to Frankie's daughter, informing her of her father's true character. The last shot of the film shows Frankie sitting at the counter of a diner where Maggie once took him.
- Clint Eastwood as Frankie Dunn, a gruff but well-meaning elderly boxing trainer.
- Hilary Swank as Mary Margaret "Maggie" Fitzgerald, a determined, aspiring boxer trained up by Frankie Dunn.
- Morgan Freeman as Eddie "Scrap-Iron" Dupris, Dunn's gym assistant; an elderly former boxer, he was blinded in one eye in his 109th, and last, fight.
- Jay Baruchel as Dangerous Dillard Fighting Flippo Bam-Bam Barch or "Danger", a simple-minded would-be boxer.
- Mike Colter as "Big" Willie Little, a boxer whom Dunn has trained for years.
- Lucia Rijker as Billie "The Blue Bear" Osterman, a vicious, ex-prostitute boxer.
- Brían F. O'Byrne as Father Horvak, the priest of the church which Dunn attends, who cannot stand Dunn.
- Anthony Mackie as Shawrelle Berry, an overzealous boxer and frequent tenant of Dunn's gym.
- Margo Martindale as Earline Fitzgerald, Maggie's selfish mother.
- Riki Lindhome as Mardell Fitzgerald, Maggie's welfare-cheating sister.
- Michael Peña as Omar, a boxer and Shawrelle's best friend.
- Benito Martinez as Billie's manager
- Grant L. Roberts as Billie's cut man, (trainer) trained Hilary Swank off screen for her Academy Award-winning role
- Bruce MacVittie as Mickey Mack, a rival of Dunn.
- David Powledge as Counterman at Diner
- Joe D'Angerio as Cut Man
- Aaron Stretch as Himself
- Don Familton as Ring Announcer
Development and production
The film was stuck in so-called "development hell" for years before it was shot. Several studios rejected the project even when Eastwood signed on as actor and director. Even Warner Bros., Eastwood's longtime home base, would not agree to a US$30 million budget. Eastwood persuaded Lakeshore Entertainment's Tom Rosenberg to put up half the budget (as well as handle foreign distribution), with Warner Bros. contributing the rest ($15 million). Eastwood shot the film in less than 40 days between June and July 2004. Filming took place in Los Angeles and film sets at Warner Bros. Studios. The term 'Million Dollar Baby' was from the nose art of a World War IIConsolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber. Eastwood had his daughter Morgan Colette appear in a brief role as a girl who waves to Swank's character at a gas station.
Eastwood had confidence in Swank's acting background, but upon seeing Swank's small physique, he had concerns, "I just thought, 'Yeah, this gal would be great. If we can get her trained up. If we can get a little bit more bulk on her, to make her look like a fighter'...She was like a feather. But what happened is, she had this great work ethic."
Consequently, to prepare for her role, Swank underwent extensive training in the ring and weight room gaining 19 pounds of muscle, aided by professional trainer Grant L Roberts. She trained for nearly five hours every day, winding up with a potentially life-threatening staphylococcus infection. She did not tell Eastwood about the infection because she thought it would be out of character for Maggie.
Million Dollar Baby initially had a limited release, opening in eight theaters in December 2004. In its later wide release opening, the film earned $12,265,482 in North America and quickly became a box-office hit both domestically and internationally. It grossed $216,763,646 in theaters; $100,492,203 in the United States, and $116,271,443 overseas. The film played in theaters for six and a half months.
The film received critical acclaim. It holds a 91% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 261 reviews, with an average rating of 8.4/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Clint Eastwood's assured direction - combined with knockout performances from Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman - help Million Dollar Baby to transcend its clichés, and the result is deeply heartfelt and moving." It also has a score of 86 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 39 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times gave the film four stars and stated that "Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby is a masterpiece, pure and simple," listing it as the best film of 2004.Michael Medved stated: "My main objection to Million Dollar Baby always centered on its misleading marketing, and effort by Warner Brothers to sell it as a movie about a female Rocky, with barely a hint of the pitch-dark substance that led Andrew Sarris of the New York Observer ... to declare that 'no movie in my memory has depressed me more than Million Dollar Baby.'"
In early 2005, the film sparked controversy when some disability rights activists protested the ending. Wesley J. Smith in The Weekly Standard also criticized the film for its ending and for missed opportunities; Smith said, "The movie could have ended with Maggie triumphing once again, perhaps having obtained an education and becoming a teacher; or, opening a business managing boxers; or perhaps, receiving a standing ovation as an inspirational speaker."
Eastwood responded to the criticism by saying the film was about the American dream. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Eastwood distanced himself from the actions of characters in his films, noting, "I've gone around in movies blowing people away with a.44 Magnum. But that doesn't mean I think that's a proper thing to do". Roger Ebert stated that "a movie is not good or bad because of its content, but because of how it handles its content. Million Dollar Baby is classical in the clean, clear, strong lines of its story and characters, and had an enormous emotional impact".
Some commentators[who?] criticized the fact that the phrase mo chuisle, a term of endearment meaning literally "my pulse", and generally "my darling", was misspelled in the film as Mo Cuishle, as shown on the back of Maggie's robe. It is translated in the film as "my darling, my blood", although an Irish Gaelic translation site states that it is always translated as "pulse", not as "blood". The original phrase is short for a chuisle mo chroí, meaning "O pulse of my heart". The film has been praised, however, for stirring renewed interest in the Irish language in the U.S.
Million Dollar Baby received the award for Best Picture of 2004 at the 77th Academy Awards. Clint Eastwood was awarded his second Best Director Oscar for the film, and also received a Best Actor in a Leading Role nomination. Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman received Best Actress in a Leading Role and Best Actor in a Supporting Role Oscars, respectively. Joel Cox, Eastwood's editor for many years, was nominated for Best Film Editing, and Paul Haggis was nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay award. The film was named the third "Best Film of the 21st Century So Far" in 2017 by The New York Times.
The film was released on VHS and DVD on July 12, 2005, and all editions of the Region 1 DVD, except for the "Deluxe Edition", came with a paperback copy of the book Rope Burns: Stories from the Corner. An HD DVD release was issued on April 18, 2006. The Blu-ray Disc version was released on November 14, 2006. It was the first Best Picture winner released on either high-definition optical disc format in the U.S.; it and Unforgiven were the only ones released in the U.S. on HD DVD prior to the first one released in the U.S. on Blu-ray, Crash.
- ^ abEliot (2009), p. 309
- ^ abcHughes, p. 156
- ^ ab"Million Dollar Baby (2004)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
- ^Hughes, p. 157
- ^Fold 3 WWII Crew photos
- ^ abRebecca Leung (March 2, 2005). "Hilary Swank: Oscar Gold – 60 Minutes". CBS News. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
- ^Hughes, p. 160
- ^"Million Dollar Baby (2004)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
- ^"Million Dollar Baby Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
- ^Ebert, Roger (7 January 2005). "Million Dollar Baby". rogerebert.com. Retrieved 26 November 2007.
- ^Medved, Michael. "My 'Million Dollar' Answer," OpinionJournal/Dow Jones & Company, Inc. (17 February 2005). Archived at TownHall.com.
- ^"Million Dollar Missed Opportunity". weeklystandard.com.
- ^The New York Times > Arts > Frank Rich: How Dirty Harry Turned Commie
- ^Roger Ebert (29 January 2005). "Critics have no right to play spoiler". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 27 November 2007.
- ^IrishGaelicTranslator.com. Million Dollar Baby movie
- ^ abWes Davis Fighting Words. New York Times, 26 February 2005
- ^Dargis, Manohla; Scott, A.O. "The 25 Best Films of the 21st Century...So Far". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
- ^ abHistorical HD DVD Release Dates, High-Def Digest, accessed 12 March 2012
- ^ abHistorical Blu-ray Release Dates, High-Def Digest, accessed 12 March 2012
Everybody's got a particular number of fights in him. Nobody tells you what that number is." --Morgan Freeman, "Million Dollar Baby"
By now, you’ve already heard all about “Million Dollar Baby” - that it’s Clint Eastwood’s best film; that it is one of the greatest sports flick; that it features award-worthy performances; that it is, simply, an amazing movie experience.
If you haven't heard anything about this movie, then trust me everything mentioned above is true. It has a winning combination of gentle humor, compassion, zeal, intensity, and, in the end, a whole lot of pathos. Million Dollar Baby is the best, not because it is the most ambitious or even the most original. On the contrary: it is a quiet, intimately scaled three-person drama directed in a patient, easygoing style, without any of the displays of allusive cleverness or formal gimmickry that so often mask as important film-making these days. It’s a film about acceptance, forgiveness, and, most of all, redemption. Clint Eastwood places a admittedly sentimental story in a hardened context, and makes it seem all the more genuine and touching.
PlotFrankie Dunn (Eastwood) is a rotten Catholic and an over-cautious boxing manager who's never enjoyed a title shot. He runs a dilapidated gym with longtime pal Eddie Scrap (Morgan Freeman), who lost sight in one eye after being savaged in the ring. Frankie's life hstory is revealed in narration from Scrap, who also introduces us to Danger Barch (Jay Baruchel), whose nickname is purely ironic. It is both Frankie's and Scrap's nature to encourage Danger's boxing ambitions while being clever enough to never let him anywhere near a real fight.
Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) is a waitress in her early thirties. She has left her welfare-cheating mother, nasty siblings and grim past for something hopeful. She's got that dream and the willpower. So she joins Frankie Dunn's gym hoping to persuade Frank (Eastwood) to be her trainer. He refuses, so she hangs around the gym, receiving help from Scrap.
Frankie is managing Big Willie (Mike Colter), a contender, but has refused to put him in the ultimate prizefight until he's ready. But the boxer leaves Frank for another manager. He takes another look at Maggie, beating with determination at the punching bag. Eventually Frankie agrees to help Maggie, and their growing affection for each other and teamwork becomes a powerful combination.
Analysis"Million Dollar Baby" is three movies in one. The first part of the movie is sweet, amiable, easy going; the middle part is tough, gritty, and exciting; and the final part gets very weighty and a tearjerker. We travel with three characters along these episodes, whom we grow to love. The two icons of silver screen manages to make them look like a common man, not an easy task considering the popularity of both. I've also run out of adjectives to describe the eternally effortless coolness of Mr. Clint Eastwood. He's an old-fashioned movie star, he's the old-school-style director of consistently fascinating films, and he still exudes a screen presence that's nothing short of magnetic.
As an actor, Eastwoodslips on Frankie's persona like a favorite old suit. As a director, he takes his time telling the tale, knowing that rushing things would only get in the way. His pacing is deliberate, his use of slower rhythms a firm sign of trust in and understanding of his material - anything fancy would only get in the way here. If Frankie's (Eastwood) relationship with Swank's Maggie is the heart-breaker, his banter with Freeman's Eddie is the movie's greatest pleasure. Freeman narrates the story in a voice-over one could listen to all by itself. Is there really anybody in movies with a better voice than Morgan Freeman? It's so wholesome, warm, friendly, strong, and reassuring.
Hilary Swank takes a leading role that could have been ruined by overplaying, and instead takes a low-key approach, the result being a character that feels entirely natural. On the page, Maggie could seem like a clueless and desperate little girl, but Swank infuses Maggie with so much heart and earthy character. One of the movie's most effective scenes involves Maggie's triumphant return to her hometown, which is ruined by her mom's small-mindedness.
Paul Haggis' script is based on the gritty stories of F.X. Toole, who was himself a boxer. The screenplay is lean and sincere, even when the narrative trajectory shifts in final third, bringing the film to an entirely different level that allows for a moment of crucial decision making that leads to unexpected transcendence, the kind that stays with you for a long time. Cinematographer Tom Stern's approach is both visually spare and emotionally intoxicating.
Beginning with this paragraph, there are some spoilers. Viewers who like fresh and pure movie experiences should proceed at their own risk. In "Million Dollar Baby," there's less glamorization of the ring activity than often occurs in boxing movies. For Maggie, winning isn't about fame and making money - it's about earning respect and loyalty. Boxing is her way to escape her past. And she remains true to her gruff coach, even when a hot-shot manager offers to take over her career and help her into the big time. Had this been all that Million Dollar Baby is about, it would have been a solid motion picture: heartfelt if somewhat unremarkable.
But the film takes an unexpected turn in its third act, and ends up asking some tough questions: What shows more heart - to help a loved one to die with dignity, or to offer support to ease the pain of what they view as a valueless existence? Eastwood demands much from the audience as he emphasizes the difficulties of either path. The part, where Maggie is bedridden is sad and may not lift your spirits, but it will definitely move you.
In the final segments of the "Million Dollar Baby,"Eastwood explores the redemptive power of love which happens when a person sets aside self-interest and serves another without regard for the consequences. It is a rich and challenging movie that both affirms life and emphasizes its fragility. Every scene, every action and reaction, every performance just shines of film-making care and craftsmanship. Even if you think you don't like boxing or sports films, you must see this one for the beauty of its relationships and to appreciate what Eastwood has wrought.
Clint Eastwood Winning Oscar For 'Best Director'Million Dollar Baby - IMDb