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Is Million Dollar Baby a True Story?

June 30, 2020
4 min read

Boxing movies come with a different set of emotions. They often feature the story of an underdog, as they find their way to the top, or least, to someplace where they have a fighting chance. Despite a seemingly repetitive loop that the genre is caught up in, these movies mostly succeed in getting people passionate about their stories and characters. One such movie to deliver an emotional punch to the audience is ‘Million Dollar Baby’.

Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Hillary Swank in the lead role, the Academy Award winning film follows the story of a waitress named Maggie Fitzgerald who decides to pursue a career in boxing. Frankie Dunn believes her too old to be getting in the line, but her conviction wins him over and they begin a rigorous training. The film takes the same route of a person completely drowning themselves in training for what they want in life, but in the second half, it takes an unexpected turn and turns into a tragedy. With such an inspiring and heart-breaking tale at the same time, one is bound to wonder if it is true? Is ‘Million Dollar Baby’ based on true events? Here’s the answer.

Is Million Dollar Baby based on a true story?

No, ‘Million Dollar Baby’ is not based on a true story. It is based on a screenplay by Paul Higgins, who adapted it from the collection of short stories, ‘Rope Burns: Stories from the Corner’, written by F.X. Toole, aka Jerry Boyd. Out of the several short stories in the book, the ones that are merged together to form the script of the film are ‘The Monkey Look’, ‘Million $$$ Baby’, and ‘Frozen Water’. Boyd had written the book when he was on the crux of 70, and died two years before the film arrived on the screens. He didn’t get to see the alternate version of his stories and neither did he see the increased popularity of his works, a couple of which were released posthumously.

Boyd had picked up boxing pretty late in his life. While working side jobs and trying to keep his writing career afloat, he decided to give a go to boxing. He was in his 40s by then, so there was no prospect of him pursuing it as a profession, but he learnt enough to know about the world of boxing and write stories about it. He trained under Dub Huntley, who taught him the tricks of the trade while also introducing him to some well known names in boxing. When Boyd finally got to write down the book, he looked towards Huntley to create his characters, and delved into his experiences to forge the same for the people depicted in the book.

When Boyd had first approached him, Huntley thought about “running him out of the gym.” However, Boyd stuck with the schedule, and as time passed, their friendship grew and Huntley eventually got him as a cutman. While he trained a lot of people in the field, he never got to make his dream of winning the world championship come true due to a boxing accident in 1970 that had left him with a detached retina.

Owing to his intense training, Huntley got Boyd a job as a cutman, through which he got to meet Juli Crockett, whom he called the inspiration for the character of Maggie Fitzgerald. The woman of many talents, Crockett’s professional boxing career is not the only thing that she has made a name for herself in. She has also written and directed plays, dabbled in music, and served as an advocate for animal and human rights. It was after ‘Million Dollar Baby’ was released that her boxing career came to the limelight. However, fortunately, unlike the fate of Maggie in the film, Crockett didn’t meet with any tragedy in her life.

Read More: Best Boxing Movies of All Time

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