Released in 2004, “Million Dollar Baby” is probably one of the biggest commercial and critical successes of Clint Eastwood’s long filmography. The latter, however, has come a long way, as he struggled to obtain funding for his film.
Million Dollar Baby : a cinematic punch
After experiencing success with Mystic River in 2003, Clint Eastwood is not resting on his laurels. Thus, the American actor and director decides to adapt a short story by FX Toole, centered on a woman boxer. Initially, it was Paul Haggis (Collision) who is chosen to direct the film. The latter therefore wrote a first version of the screenplay adopted by Warner. However, Eastwood ultimately decides to direct the film himself, in addition to playing the lead role. On the casting side, he surrounds himself of two sure values. On one side, the Oscar winner Hilary Swank (who will take several pounds of muscle for the role) and on the other, the indescribable Morgan Freeman.
Million Dollar Baby follows Frankie Dunn, an aging boxing trainer who runs a small boxing gym with his best friend Scrap. The two men see their lives turned upside down by the arrival in their premises of Maggie Fitzgerald, a young boxer determined to put her name in the sport. Frankie and Scrap take her under his wing.
Critically acclaimed, Million Dollar Baby will receive numerous distinctions including four Oscars, that of the best film, the best director, the best actress for Hilary Swank and the best actor in a supporting role for Morgan Freeman. At the same time, he will receive two Golden Globes as well as the César for best foreign film in 2006. The film will also be a great commercial success. with $216 million in revenue (for a budget of 30 million).
Who would have believed it ?
On paper, one would have thought that Million Dollar Baby either a juicy project for major studios. However, the film remains at the stage of “development hell“for several years. Thus, no production is really motivated by the idea of investing money for the film. The arrival of Clint Eastwood to sign the project and have it distributed by the Warner barely makes things better. Indeed, the famous American studio is reluctant to produce a film which, according to him, would legitimize the subject of euthanasia (ultra taboo theme in the United States).
Since Warner refuses to grant Clint Eastwood its 30 million dollar budget (although he has been working with the studio for thirty years), the latter decides to find his funding elsewhere. Therefore, he manages to persuade the companies Lakeshore Entertainment and Malposo to provide a large part of the necessary funds.
Believing in it only very little, Warner only screened the film in 147 theaters, initially. We will have to wait for the flood of nominations that Million Dollar Baby will receive at the biggest international ceremonies so that the studio can seriously get into distribution… With the success that we know.