Stephen Gaghan
SpouseMarion Fountain "Minnie" Mortimer (2007-present)

Stephen Gaghan (born May 6, 1965 in Louisville, Kentucky)[1] is an Academy Award and Emmy Award-winning American film writer and director. He is noted for writing the screenplay for Steven Soderbergh's film Traffic, based on a Channel 4 series, for which he won the Academy Award, as well as the Academy Award nominated Syriana which he directed and wrote.

Childhood and education

A son of the former Elizabeth Jane Whorton and her first husband, Stephen Gaghan (died 1980), and a stepson of Tom Haag, Gaghan attended Kentucky Country Day School, a college preparatory school in Louisville. He is a grandson of Jerry Gaghan, a newspaper columnist and drama critic for Variety and the Philadelphia Daily News, whose career inspired Gaghan's own professional pursuits.[2] As he wrote in a 2001 article in Newsweek, "I also wanted to be a writer, like my grandfather, who carried a card in his wallet that read, "If you find me, call my son [my father] at this number..."[3]

In his final days of high school before graduation, Gaghan was expelled for driving a go-cart through the halls of the school. During the release of Traffic, a critic commented on one of the teen characters in the movie who is a drug addict and a straight-A student, calling it unrealistic, which Gaghan defended by stating that he had straight A's while he was addicted to drugs and alcohol. As Gaghan wrote in an article published in Newsweek in February 2001, "I wasn't much different from my peers, except where they could stop drinking after three or six or 10 drinks, I couldn't stop and wouldn't stop until I had progressed through marijuana, cocaine, heroin and, finally, crack and freebase--which seem for so many people to be the last stop on the elevator."

Gaghan has stated that he began dealing with his addictions in 1997. "Over one long, five-day weekend, I had three separate heroin dealers get arrested," he said. "My dealer, my backup dealer and my backup-backup dealer. I was left alone, and I just hit that place, that total incomprehensible demoralization. That was the end of it; up five days straight, locked in the bathroom, convinced there was nowhere else to go, I had to kill myself, I'm going to kill myself. I just couldn't take another minute of it."[4]

He attended the University of Kentucky and was a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity.[5]

He attended Babson College in Massachusetts. [6] He also started a catalog company, Fallen Empire Inc., which he hoped would support his writing career. It failed.

On 19 May 2007, at St. Thomas Church in New York City, Gaghan married Marion Fountain "Minnie" Mortimer (b. 1982), the only daughter of John Jay Mortimer and his wife, the former Senga Clark Mucci, who had previous been married to Dwight Filley Davis 3d. The bride's mother is an editor at House Beautiful. Minnie has an eponymous clothing line of preppy shirt dresses.

Minnie Gaghan is a great-granddaughter of Henry Morgan Tilford, who was a president of Standard Oil from 1893 to 1907, and also a descendant of the first Chief Justice of the United States, John Jay.[7] Her maternal grandfather was Henry Mucci, an Italian-American U.S. Army officer who rescued the survivors of the Bataan Death March.[8] Her paternal grandfather, Stanley Grafton Mortimer, was a stockbroker who became "one of the half dozen greatest amateurs in the American history" of racquetball.[9]

Gaghan has a son, Gardner (b.1999) and a daughter, Elizabeth (b.2001), from a prior relationship with Michael McCraine, an actress and model. In addition to his mother and stepfather, Gaghan has three step-siblings and their families that reside in Louisville, KY. [citation needed]


Gaghan wrote the screenplay for Traffic, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2000. In addition to Traffic, Gaghan has also directed and written the screenplays for Syriana (2005) and Abandon (2002), the former receiving comparable critical acclaim as Traffic did, while the latter turning out to be a total fiasco. Other writing credits include Havoc (2005), The Alamo (2004) and Rules of Engagement (2000), as well as a handful of episodes of various television series. Gaghan turned down the chance to adapt Dan Brown's novel, The Da Vinci Code.

In his television writing career, he won an Emmy Award for co-writing a NYPD Blue episode entitled Where's Swaldo, in 1997. In addition to NYPD Blue, he has also written for The Practice and New York Undercover.

As a filmmaker, Gaghan is generally regarded as one of the two precursors of the style known as hyperlink cinema, along with the Alejandro González Iñarritu/Guillermo Arriaga writer-director team of Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel. Most especially, Syriana's convoluted narrative, which mimics the confusion and lack of information of the characters yet manages to capture the complexity and feel of being in its particular milieu, is considered a prime example of the hyperlink film.

From November 15, 2006, Nintendo ran a series of television advertisements for the Wii directed by Gaghan as a part of a US$200 million ad campaign. The productions are Nintendo's first broad-based advertising strategy and include a two-minute video clip showing grandparents and parents enjoying the Wii console with their children. 80% of the advertisements target adults in an attempt to expand the market beyond Nintendo's traditional audience. The music in the ads is from the song "Kodo (Inside the Sun Remix)" by the Yoshida Brothers

Gaghan played himself in the Entourage season 4 premiere "Welcome to the Jungle".

His next project is a film adaptation of Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. The film is said to star Leonardo DiCaprio.

He has also been hired by Warner Bros. to write the screen play of the Dead Spy Running franchise written by author Jon Stock.[10]




Syriana (2005) & Abandon (2002)


Alfie (2004)


"Sleepwalkers" (co-producer)

Personal Appearances

Future Projects

Gaghan is returning to his TV roots with a seven-figure deal at ABC. He will write and executive produce an hourlong project for the network. He's also attached to direct the potential pilot if his feature schedule permits. [1]

Awards & Nominations

He has won an Emmy Award, Writers Guild of America Awards, Golden Globe Award, and an Academy Award.


  1. ^ Multiple sources, online and otherwise, state that the director was born in Louisville. However, a woman claiming to be Gaghan's aunt, Gloria Gaghan Hamilton, a writer of science fiction, has stated in several Gaghan forums that the director was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, his father's hometown and the city where his paternal grandfather achieved prominence as a journalist. In interviews, Gaghan has stated that he is from Louisville, though he does not appear to have categorically stated that he was born there.
  2. ^ George Skinner, a Broadcast Pioneer
  3. ^ The Enemy is Every One of Us | Newsweek | Find Articles at
  4. ^ Screenwriter Drew on Own Experience to Write "Traffic"
  5. ^ Delta Tau Delta ::
  6. ^ The Screenwriter for 'Traffic' Says He Drew on His Past of Drug Use
  7. ^ Stephen Gaghan and Minnie Mortimer - New York Times
  8. ^ Robert McG. Thomas, Jr., "Henry A. Mucci Dies at 88; Rescued Survivors of Bataan", The New York Times, 24 April 1997
  9. ^ "S.G. Mortimer, Racquets Star, 56", The New York Times, 6 April 1947
  10. ^ "Stephen Gaghan set to adapt 'Dead Spy'". Hollywood Reporter. 2009-02-19. Retrieved 2009-03-31. ((cite news)): Check date values in: |date= (help)