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Million Dollar Baby is a 2004 film directed, co-produced and scored by Clint Eastwood and starring Eastwood, Hilary Swank, and Morgan Freeman. It is the story of an under-appreciated boxing trainer, his elusive past, and his quest for atonement by helping an underdog amateur female boxer (the film's title character) achieve her dream of becoming a professional. The film won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

The 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.


Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), an amateur who aspires to become a successful boxer, leaves her Missourimarker town in the Ozarksmarker for Los Angelesmarker, and is reluctantly taken on by Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood), a brilliant but down-and-out boxing trainer who has been cast aside by his colleagues and relatives, including his estranged daughter, Katy. Initially, Dunn's attitude towards Maggie is indifferent, because she is female and already 31 years old. Maggie, however, perseveres in her attempts to win Dunn's favor by training each day in his gym, even when others discourage her. Frank's friend and employee, ex-boxer Eddie "Scrap Iron" Dupris (Morgan Freeman) narrates the story in non-dialogue scenes.

Dunn writes to his estranged daughter every week but receives no replies. Dunn's priest cannot fathom why Katy would not respond and doubts Dunn's claims that he writes to her. Dunn, lacking a close relationship with his daughter, establishes a strong one with Maggie, whose own family cares little for her well-being. When Maggie buys her mother a house, she is not grateful and hounds Maggie for putting the welfare scam she and Maggie's sister are running at risk.

With Dunn's help, Maggie fights her way up to the women's welterweight boxing division, and eventually ranks high enough for a match in Las Vegasmarker against the WBA women's welterweight champion, Billie the Blue Bear (played by real life boxer Lucia Rijker), a former German prostitute who is known to get away with committing fouls. During the match it looks like Maggie has the game in her hands, however, an illegal attack by Billie causes Maggie to hit her head and neck on her corner stool, which the frantic Dunn is unable to move out of the way in time. As a result, Maggie is paralyzed from the neck down, and Billie retains the championship with no police charge. Dunn initially blames Scrap for convincing him to train her, but in the end blames himself for having worked with her against his better judgment.

In a medical rehabilitation facility, Maggie hopes that her family will visit her, though Dunn repeatedly calls them with no success. Eventually, the family arrives—after first visiting Disneylandmarker and Universal Studios Hollywoodmarker, with an attorney in tow, to arrange the transfer of Maggie's assets to them. Maggie reveals that she retained the title to the house she gave her family and gives them a choice: leave and never contact her again, or Maggie will sell the house and leave them homeless. Her defeated family leaves and does not return.

Maggie asks Dunn to be relieved of her suffering and help her die. Dunn refuses, but does speak with his priest, who objects to the idea of euthanasia, sympathetically but firmly saying that it is murder. Maggie then attempts suicide by biting her tongue multiple times in an attempt to choke to death on her own blood. Though hospital staff prevent further suicide attempts, Dunn decides that Maggie's suffering should not continue, and he injects her with an overdose of adrenaline.

Just before administering the injection, Dunn finally tells Maggie the meaning of the nickname by which he has called her; the phrase, Mo Cuishle, which he says is Irish for "My darling, my blood". Afterwards, as Scrap explains, Dunn disappears. Scrap's narration is revealed to be a letter to Dunn's daughter, Katy, informing her of her father's true character.


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, wouldn't agree to a USD$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. kicking in the rest ($15 million). Eastwood shot the film in 37 days, and the film's total worldwide box office gross is around US$220 million.


The film received highly positive reviews. Roger Ebert 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 that: "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 January and February 2005, the film sparked controversy when some disability rights activists protested the ending, in which Frank carries out Maggie's wish to die after she becomes a quadriplegic as a result of a spinal-cord injury. The activists believed that the ending supported the euthanasia of disabled people. Wesley J. Smith in The Weekly Standard also criticized the movie 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 movie 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 of the Chicago Sun Times, who named the film his favorite of 2004, believes "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 Irish speakers have also criticized the fact that the phrase Mo Chuisle, a term of endearment meaning My pulse, was misspelled in the movie as Mo Cuishle, as shown on the back of Maggie's robe. In Irish and other Goidelic languages, consonants soften when followed by a vowel, hence the "c" in "cuisle" turns into a guttural "ch". It is translated in the film as "My darling, my blood". The original phrase is short for A chuisle mo chroí, meaning "O pulse of my heart". The movie has also been praised for stirring interest in the Irish language in the U.S..

Spoiler debate

When describing the plot of the film, Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert gave a spoiler warning. He noted in his reviews the difficulty of discussing the film without discussing details of the plot, saying that even warning about spoilers would itself be a spoiler. Susan Wloszczyna of USA Today said the film "packs a surprise plot twist" and said "spoilsports already have begun to leak details about this drama", saying "the urge to divulge the story's secrets will only grow worse when the film finally goes nationwide." Wloszczyna noted that David Thomson of The Independent "offered readers only a hint of the story basics" and said "most reviewers have coddled the sports saga with similar care..." Wloszczyna said Thomson said "My great wish always, which is difficult to achieve, is to go in knowing nothing about a film."

Jeffrey Overstreet of Christianity Today avoided giving away plot details, stating that while knowing the nature of the third part wouldn't ruin the film, it would alter the experience significantly. Mark Moring of Christianity Today said, "Who wants to watch a movie when you know how it ends? We've actually had to wrestle with that question around here lately..." Moring said, "We wondered if our "moral obligation" to warn Christians about the potentially disturbing subject matter somehow "trumped" our professional commitment to avoid plot spoilers—especially the worst plot spoiler of all: divulging the end. After some discussion, we agreed that the right decision was to not give away the end to Million Dollar Baby."

Michael Atkinson of The Village Voice said the film had a "spoiler-spawning shift in narrative." Ian Grey of Baltimore City Paper said the last act seems to be from another film at first, and said "Naming this misfortune and its consequences, however, would be an unforgivable spoiler."


Academy Awards record
1. Best Picture
2. Best Director
3. Best Actress (Hilary Swank)
4. Best Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman)
Golden Globe Awards record
1. Best Director
2. Best Drama Actress (Hilary Swank)

Million Dollar Baby received the award for Best Picture of 2004 at the 77th Academy Awards. Eastwood was awarded his second Directing Oscar for the film and also received a Best Actor nomination. Swank and Freeman received Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor Oscars, respectively. Joel Cox, Eastwood's editor for many years, was nominated for Film Editing, and Haggis was nominated for the Writing Adapted Screenplay award. The film beat what many thought to be the front-runner, Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, which had won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA for Best Drama.

The film was also nominated for and won a number of Golden Globes, SAG Awards, and the Directors Guild Award.

List of awards and nominations

Gross Revenue

Despite an opening weekend of just $12,265,482, the film became a box-office hit both domestically and internationally. The film 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.

DVD release

The film was released on 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. A HD DVD release was issued on April 18, 2006, one of only four movies released on the first day of that format. The Blu-ray Disc version was released on November 14, 2006.

See also


  1. Million Dollar Baby info from Box Office Mojo (accessed 4 January 2008)
  2. Million Dollar Missed Opportunity
  3. The New York Times > Arts > Frank Rich: How Dirty Harry Turned Commie
  4. Million Dollar Baby movie
  5. Wes Davis Fighting Words. New York Times. February 26, 2005
  7. Historical Release Dates for HD DVD Discs, High-Def Digest, accessed 4 January 2008
  8. Historical Blu-ray Release Dates, High-Def Digest, accessed 13 October 2009

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