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MILLION DOLLAR BABY

The Characters And Story
Adapted for the screen by Emmy-winning screenwriter Paul Haggis, Million Dollar Baby is based on a short story from the collection Rope Burns, by F.X. Toole. Toole spent years working as a "cut man” – the member of a boxer's team whose job it is to patch up his injuries so he can continue fighting – and his stories vividly capture the essence of life in the ring. 

Legendary producer/director/actor Clint Eastwood chose Million Dollar Baby as the follow-up to his highly acclaimed, Academy Award-winning 2003 drama Mystic River upon reading Haggis' script. "What interested me about Million Dollar Baby is the fact that it isn't really a boxing story,” Eastwood says. "It's a love story about a person who is distressed about his non-existent relationship with his daughter, and who then finds a sort of surrogate daughter in this young girl who is dying to make her mark on the world as a boxer.”

  Eastwood stars in the film as Frankie Dunn, professional boxing trainer and owner of The Hit Pit, an old-school boxing gym nestled in the gritty heart of downtown Los Angeles. The Hit Pit is Frankie's life, and he divides his time between the seemingly disparate activities of training fighters and attending Mass – which he's done almost every day for the past 23 years. Unable to forgive himself for becoming estranged from his daughter long ago, he sends her a letter every week, and the next week the letter always comes back, unopened and marked ‘Return to Sender.'

"Frankie is searching for redemption,” says Eastwood. "He's an Irish Catholic guy who's in his senior years, and he's become disillusioned with his church and his lack of a relationship with his daughter. The dilemma with his daughter is very tough on him, and it's left a huge void in his life.”

Throughout his long career, Frankie has trained and managed some talented boxers. Some of them have even made it to the big time, but it's never Frankie who got them there. He always tells his fighters that above all else, they have to protect themselves, but it's his own need to protect them – and himself – that eventually drives them away. Once his boxers learn all they can from him, they move on to managers who are willing to put their fighters on the line for a title.

  "Frankie's reluctance to put his boxers in title fights has caused him to have some disappointments,” Eastwood relates. "He's become ultra-conservative and unable to spot when they're ready. Even though he's still training fighters, he's kind of retired in his mind.”

  Frankie's managed to keep himself safe for a very long time – until Maggie Fitzgerald walks into his gym. Maggie grew up dirt-poor in the Ozarks, but over the years she's managed to put a lot of miles between herself and her past as she pursues her dream of becoming a professional fighter. In boxing, Maggie finds purpose, pride, and some of the only true happiness she's ever known. Without it, she has nothing – and regardless of the fact that she is untrained, and at 31 is considered too old to begin a fighting career, Maggie refuses to give up on the one thing that makes her feel good in life.

"Why does someone want to become a boxer?” asks Hilary Swank, winner of the Best Actress Oscar for her searing performance in the 1999 drama Boys Don't Cry. "To go in the ring and hit and be hit is not something I really understood until I started training for this film. But for Maggie, not only is boxing her way out, it's something that she loves. I can certainly relate, because growing up, my family lived in a trailer and we didn't have a lot of money. I started doing plays at the age of nine. It's what I loved and I wanted to do it forever, and I connected to that part of Maggie.”

  "With Maggie Fitzgerald,” says Eastwood, "you see the struggle of somebody with great ambition who has very little education, and very little support from

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