‘Crash’ Director Paul Haggis Wouldn’t Have Voted For ‘Crash’ as Best Picture Either

Thandie Newton and Matt Dillon in ‘Crash’ (Lionsgate)

Nearly a decade after his film became perhaps the most controversial and openly loathed Academy Award winner for Best Picture of all time, Crash director Paul Haggis has thrown a bone to his critics and admitted he wouldn’t have voted for his film to win the Oscar, either.

“Was it the best film of the year? I don’t think so,” Haggis, who also won Best Original Screenplay for Crash in 2006, told HitFix in a new interview. “There were great films that year. Good Night and Good Luck, amazing film. Capote, terrific film. Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, great film. And Spielberg’s MunichCrash for some reason affected people, it touched people. And you can’t judge these films like that. I’m very glad to have those Oscars. But you shouldn’t ask me what the best film of the year was because I wouldn’t be voting for Crash, only because I saw the artistry that was in the other films.”

Haggis is clearly still proud of the film, which starred a multiethnic ensemble cast — including Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon, and Don Cheadle — in interlocking stories about race in Los Angeles. He is right that the film touched a lot of people. But in many cases, that consisted of rubbing them the wrong way. Even after 9 years, there remains outrage over the film’s victory, in part because of its heavy-handed handling of racial issues. For instance, Ta-Nehisi Coates, the award-winning author and writer for The Atlantic, once named Crash the worst movie of the ‘00s, calling it “the apotheosis of a kind of unthinking, incurious, nihilistic, multiculturalism,” and threatened to ban any of his readers who tried to defend the movie.

Also contributing to Crash’s backlash was the fact that it defeated Brokeback Mountain, a landmark (and greatly superior) movie about the love story of two closeted cowboys, played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. Director Ang Lee won Best Director, but the Academy appeared unready to reward a film as bold as Brokeback with its ultimate prize. In a survey of Oscar voters done earlier this year by The Hollywood Reporter, a majority of voters said they would now give the Best Picture statue to Brokeback Mountain.

Crash, for its part, is still routinely named the worst Best Picture winner ever, over films such as How Green Was My Valley, which beat Citizen Kane in 1942, and Rocky, which KO’d classics Network and Taxi Driver in 1976. So at least it’s earned the consensus vote in at least one awards race.