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The Mission Begins
As he contemplated wading into the world of Green Zone, director/producer Paul Greengrass knew he wanted his next film to grab people by their shirts with a high-stakes thriller, drenched in the authentic details of a war zone. "This is not a movie about the war in Iraq,” the filmmaker emphasizes. "It's a thriller set in Iraq, and that's a very different proposition. In my experience, thrillers are at their best when they're in extreme environments where the moral challenges are acute.”

Over the course of the past decade, Greengrass has become renowned for his pulse-pounding actionthrillers. The last two Bourne films he helmed achieved a rare feat: the ability to impress critics and worldwide audiences alike. But he is equally well known for his hard-hitting and meticulously researched dramatic movies.

With United 93, the story of the brave passengers and crew who rallied against terrorist hijackers on September 11, Greengrass not only honored the memories of the heroes lost that day, he created a powerful dramatic thriller that invested audiences in their lives. Critical nods included an Academy Award® nomination for Best Director in 2007, a Best Original Screenplay nomination from the Writers Guild of America and BAFTA's David Lean Award for Direction. As well, his 2002 film, Bloody Sunday, which depicts the brutal murders of 13 civil rights marchers in Northern Ireland, won top prizes at the Berlin and Sundance film festivals.

Many moviegoers may not be aware that Greengrass began his career covering global conflict for Britain's ITV. During that 10-year span, he traveled to war-torn countries and reported upon powerful stories. After shifting his focus to fictional dramatic fare, he still found himself drawn to creating films that explored timely social events. By blending a documentarian's rigorous discipline with a dramatic filmmaker's sense of structure and plot, he heightened the impact of his projects. Explains producer Lloyd Levin: "Paul has a very keen sense of how to bring each beat of a story to life. He creates the most dramatic version of reality he can.”

In between his two blockbuster thrillers starring Matt Damon as amnesiac super-agent Jason Bourne, Greengrass wrote, directed and produced United 93. A deeply rewarding experience for the team, the heart-stopping United 93 left Greengrass and fellow producers Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Lloyd Levin eager to develop another project together. "This time, we decided to make a bigger film, but still set against a real backdrop,” notes Bevan. "That was our starting point.”

Greengrass' first approach was to screenwriter Brian Helgeland, with whom he had worked on The Bourne Supremacy. Together, they began exchanging ideas and eventually began to focus on developing a thriller about the failed hunt for weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). As the story started to emerge, they sought the active collaboration of many participants in the Iraq drama, including key figures in the WMD hunt—two dozen U.S. combat vets who served in Iraq, a half-dozen ranking former CIA officers with first-hand experience and an elite CIA paramilitary team leader who captured several of Iraq's "Most Wanted.”

Later, Greengrass read former Washington Post Baghdad bureau chief Rajiv Chandrasekaran's best-selling nonfiction book "Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone.” Chandrasekaran, who reported first hand from Baghdad on the weapons-inspection process, won the Overseas Press Club book award, the Ron Ridenhour Prize and Britain's Samuel Johnson Prize, and became a finalist for the National Book Awards. His much-acclaimed book was optioned and served as a revealing window into the surreal worl

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