Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Movie


Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Wanting to learn from the best, aspiring boxer Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) wants Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) to train her. At the outset, he flatly refuses saying he has no interest in training a girl. Frankie leads a lonely existence, alienated from his only daughter and having few friends. Maggie's rough around the edges, but shows a lot of grit in the ring and he eventually relents. Maggie not only proves to be the boxer he always dreamed of having under his wing, but a friend who fills the great void he's had in his life. Maggie's career skyrockets, but an accident in the ring leads her to ask Frankie for one last favor.
USA
IMDb   8.1 /10
Metacritic   86 %
TheMovieDb    8.0 /10
RottenTomatoes  90 %
FilmAffinity   8.0 /10
Creators
Director Clint Eastwood
Writer Paul Haggis
Writer F.X. Toole
Information
Release Date2004-12-15
Runtime2h 12mins
GenreDrama, Sport
Content RatingPG-13 (PG-13)
AwardsTop Rated Movies #208 | Won 4 Oscars. Another 63 wins & 86 nominations.
CompanyWarner Bros., Lakeshore Entertainment, Malpaso Productions
CountryUSA
LanguageEnglish, Irish
Maggie Fitzgerald
Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris
Danger Barch
Big Willie Little
Billie 'The Blue Bear'
Father Horvak (as Brían O'Byrne)
Shawrelle Berry
Earline Fitzgerald
Mardell Fitzgerald
Billie's Manager
Counterman at Diner
Cut Man (as Joe d'Angerio)

Million Dollar Baby

Million Dollar Baby is a 2004 American sports drama film directed, co-produced, scored by and starring Clint Eastwood from a screenplay written by Paul Haggis, based on short stories by F.X. Toole, the pen name of fight manager and cutman Jerry Boyd. It also stars Hilary Swank, and Morgan Freeman. The film follows Margaret "Maggie" Fitzgerald (Swank), an underdog amateur boxer who is helped by an underappreciated boxing trainer (Eastwood) to achieve her dream of becoming a professional.

Million Dollar Baby was theatrically released on December 15, 2004, by Warner Bros. Pictures. It received critical acclaim and grossed $216.8 million domestically. The film garnered seven nominations at the 77th Academy Awards and won four: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (for Swank), and Best Supporting Actor (for Freeman).


Plot

Margaret "Maggie" Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), a waitress from the Ozarks, shows up at the Hit Pit, a rundown Los Angeles gym owned and operated by Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood). Dunn is a cantankerous Irish-American trainer, revealed to be estranged from his daughter. Maggie asks Frankie to train her, but he refuses as he doesn't train women and she's too old to begin a boxing career. Eddie "Scrap-Iron" Dupris (Morgan Freeman), Frankie's friend and employee — and the film's narrator — encourages and helps Maggie.

Frankie's prize prospect, "Big Willie" Little, signs with successful manager Mickey Mack after becoming impatient with Frankie rejecting offers for a championship bout. Frankie then reluctantly agrees to train Maggie.

Maggie fights her way up in the women's amateur boxing division with Frankie's coaching. Since she has earned a reputation for quick KOs, Frankie must resort to bribery to get other managers to put their trainee fighters up against her.

Scrap, concerned when Frankie rejects several offers for big fights, arranges a meeting for Maggie with Mickey Mack but, out of loyalty to Frankie, she declines. Frankie bestows Maggie a Gaelic nickname, embroidered on her boxing robe, Mo Chuisle (misspelled in the film as "mo cuishle"), but doesn't tell her its meaning. 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 her mother 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 against the WBA women's welterweight champion, Billie "The Blue Bear" Osterman, a German ex-prostitute who has a reputation as an unpunished dirty fighter. Maggie begins to dominate the fight, but Billie knocks her out with an illegal sucker punch from behind after the bell rings to end the round. Maggie lands hard on her corner stool, breaking her neck and leaving her a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic.

While in the hospital, Maggie looks forward to a visit from her family. They arrive only after first touring Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood, and accompanied by an attorney; their sole concern is to get Maggie's assets transferred to them. Disgusted, she orders them to leave and threatens to report their welfare fraud if they try to contact her again.

Maggie soon develops bedsores and undergoes an amputation for an infected leg. She then asks a favor of Frankie: to help her die, declaring that she got everything she wanted out of life. Frankie refuses, and Maggie later bites her tongue repeatedly in an attempt to drown in her own blood. Knowing the fatherly affection Frankie has developed for Maggie, Frankie's priest warns him that he would never find himself again if he were to go through with Maggie's request.

Frankie then sneaks into the hospital one night, unaware that Scrap is watching from the shadows. Just before administering a fatal injection of adrenaline, he tells Maggie the meaning of "mo cuishle", "my darling, and my blood". 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.


Cast

  • 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 simpleton 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 former prostitute and vicious 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.
  • Marcus Chait as J.D. Fitzgerald, Maggie's incarcerated, just released brother.
  • 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

After being fired from the television series Family Law, Haggis wrote the script on spec, and it took four years to sell it. The film was stuck in 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 II Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber. The titular phrase 'million dollar baby' was used as an insult during pre-fight publicity by Sonny Liston to Muhammad Ali, the latter of whom was an underdog at the time. 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.


Reception

Box office

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 in other territories. The film played in theaters for six and a half months.

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes Million Dollar Baby has a 90% approval rating based on 271 reviews, with an average rating of 8.40/10. 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." On Metacritic it has a score of 86 out of 100, based on reviews from 39 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "A" on scale of A to F.

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. The Disability Rights Education Fund released a statement about the film in February 2005 that included the following: "Perhaps the most central stereotype fueling disability prejudice is the mistaken assumption inherent in the message of the movie that the quality of life of individuals with disabilities is unquestionably not worth living. This stereotype is contradicted by the personal experience of many thousands of people with significant disabilities in this country and around the world who view our own lives as ordinary and normal. It is further contradicted by plenty of hard data. Research overwhelmingly shows that people with disabilities find satisfaction in our lives to the same degree, or greater, than does the general public." The Chicago Tribune reported that protests against the film by disability activists occurred in Chicago, Berkeley, and other cities, and that Clint Eastwood had previously lobbied for weakening provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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 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 Gaeilge 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, for renewing interest in the Irish language in the U.S.

Top ten lists

Million Dollar Baby was listed on many critics' top ten lists for films released in 2004.

  • 1st – A.O. Scott & Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
  • 1st – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
  • 1st – Lou Lumenick, New York Post
  • 2nd – Richard Schickel, Time
  • 2nd – Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
  • 2nd – Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
  • 2nd – Claudia Puig, USA Today
  • 2nd – Keith Phipps, The A.V. Club
  • 2nd – Ty Burr & Wesley Morris, Boston Globe
  • 3rd – Kevin Thomas & Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
  • 3rd – Jack Matthews, New York Daily News
  • 3rd – Glenn Kenny, Premiere
  • 3rd – Carla Meyer & Ruthie Stein, San Francisco Chronicle
  • 3rd – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
  • 4th – Mike Clark, USA Today
  • 4th – David Ansen, Newsweek
  • 4th – Jami Bernard, New York Daily News
  • 5th – Robert Koehler, Variety
  • 5th – James Berardinelli, Reelviews
  • 6th – Stephen Holden, The New York Times
  • 6th – Scott Tobias, The A.V. Club
  • 6th – Richard Roeper, Ebert & Roeper
  • 9th – Desson Thompson, Washington Post
  • 10th – Nathan Rabin, The A.V. Club
  • Top 10 (listed alphabetically) – Ron Stringer, L.A. Weekly
  • Top 10 (listed alphabetically) – David Sterritt, Christian Science Monitor
  • Top 10 (listed alphabetically)– Shawn Levy, Portland Oregonian
  • Top 10 (listed alphabetically) – Carrie Rickey & Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer

Accolades

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.

AwardCategorySubjectResult
Academy AwardBest PictureClint Eastwood,
Albert S. Ruddy and
Tom Rosenberg
Won
Best DirectorClint EastwoodWon
Best ActorNominated
Best ActressHilary SwankWon
Best Supporting ActorMorgan FreemanWon
Best Adapted ScreenplayPaul HaggisNominated
Best Film EditingJoel CoxNominated
ACE EddieBest EditingNominated
Amanda AwardBest Foreign Feature FilmClint EastwoodNominated
American Screenwriters AssociationDiscover Screenwriting AwardPaul HaggisWon
Art Directors Guild AwardBest Contemporary Feature FilmHenry Bumstead
Jack G. Taylor Jr.
Nominated
Billie AwardBest FilmClint Eastwood
Albert S. Ruddy
Tom Rosenberg
Paul Haggis
Nominated
Black Reel AwardBest Supporting ActorMorgan FreemanNominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association AwardBest ActressHilary SwankWon
Best Supporting ActorMorgan FreemanNominated
Best DirectorClint EastwoodNominated
Best FilmClint Eastwood
Albert S. Ruddy
Tom Rosenberg
Paul Haggis
Nominated
Casting Society of America AwardBest Casting for Feature Film: DramaPhyllis HuffmanNominated
César AwardsBest Foreign FilmClint Eastwood
Albert S. Ruddy
Tom Rosenberg
Paul Haggis
Won
Chicago Film Critics Association AwardBest DirectorClint EastwoodWon
David di Donatello AwardsBest Foreign FilmClint EastwoodWon
Directors Guild of America AwardOutstanding DirectingClint EastwoodWon
Director's Guild of Great BritainOutstanding DirectorClint EastwoodNominated
ESPY AwardBest Sports MovieClint Eastwood
Albert S. Ruddy
Tom Rosenberg
Paul Haggis
Nominated
Florida Film Critics Circle AwardBest ActressHilary SwankWon
Golden Globe AwardBest ActressWon
Best DirectorClint EastwoodWon
Best Supporting ActorMorgan FreemanNominated
Best Motion Picture - DramaClint Eastwood
Albert S. Ruddy
Tom Rosenberg
Paul Haggis
Nominated
Best Original ScoreClint EastwoodNominated
Grammy AwardBest Score Soundtrack for Visual MediaNominated
Motion Picture Sound Editors AwardBest Sound Editing (Sound Effects & Foley)Alar Robert Murray
Bub Asman
David Grimaldi
Jason King
Nominated
MTV Movie AwardBest Female PerformanceHilary SwankNominated
NAACP Image AwardOutstanding Supporting ActorMorgan FreemanWon
National Board of Review AwardBest FilmClint Eastwood
Albert S. Ruddy
Tom Rosenberg
Paul Haggis
Nominated
Best DirectorClint EastwoodNominated
Best ActorNominated
New York Film Critics Circle AwardBest DirectorWon
Producers Guild of America AwardBest Theatrical Motion PictureClint Eastwood
Albert S. Ruddy
Tom Rosenberg
Paul Haggis
Nominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society AwardBest ActressHilary SwankWon
Best ActorClint EastwoodNominated
Best DirectorNominated
Best Supporting ActorMorgan FreemanNominated
Best FilmClint Eastwood
Albert S. Ruddy
Tom Rosenberg
Paul Haggis
Nominated
Satellite AwardBest ActressHilary SwankWon
Best Adapted ScreenplayPaul HaggisWon
Screen Actors Guild AwardBest ActressHilary SwankWon
Best Supporting ActorMorgan FreemanWon
Best CastNominated

Home media

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 (also starring Eastwood and Freeman) 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. The film is also available online through video on demand and most major streaming platforms.