Screeenwriter-Playwright Tom Stoppard to Receive WGA's Lifetime Achievement Honor
Award-winning screenwriter-playwright Tom Stoppard is set to receive the Writers Guild of America, West's 2013 Laurel Award for Screen, honoring lifetime achievement in outstanding writing for motion pictures. Stoppard will be feted, along with other honorees, at the WGAW's 2013 Writers Guild Awards West Coast ceremony on Sunday, February 17, 2013, at the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE.
"A television writer since 1965 and a screenwriter since 1975, Tom Stoppard brings wit, elegance, and heart to all he composes. We did not want to let his acknowledged brilliance as a playwright to blind us to his dramatic talents in our own field. From The Romantic Englishwoman through Despair, The Human Factor, Brazil, Empire of the Sun, The Russia House, Billy Bathgate, Shakespeare in Love, Enigma, Vatel, and this past year's Anna Karenina, Stoppard's screenplays delight, disturb, entrance. Whether adapting the masters - Nabokov, Greene, Ballard, le Carré, Doctorow, Tolstoy - or crafting his own tales, Stoppard brings dignity and coherence to the act of imagination," said WGAW Vice President Howard A. Rodman.
A Writers Guild, West member since 1991, writer-director-producer Stoppard continues to create thought-provoking works and explore creative challenges, exceling in the diverse artistic arenas of film, stage, and television. While Stoppard the playwright has contributed such iconic, well-received theatrical plays as "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead," "Arcadia," "The Invention Of Love," "The Real Thing," and "Coast Of Utopia" to the theatrical canon, Stoppard the screenwriter has penned more than a handful of enduring, memorable movies over the years, including Brazil (1985, Written by Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, and Charles McKeown), Empire of the Sun (1987, based on the novel by J.G. Ballard), Billy Bathgate (1991, based on the book by E.L. Doctorow), and most notably Shakespeare In Love (1998, Written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard), for which he shared a clutch of statuettes, including Academy, Writers Guild, and Golden Globe Awards for Original Screenplay.
While his theatrical plays are largely original works, the majority of the screenplays in Stoppard's cinematic oeuvre have been thoughtful, sharp adaptations of well-known novels. Fittingly, this latest screen adaptation - a theatrically stylized take on Leo Tolstoy's classic Russian novel Anna Karenina, directed by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law - dares to take the kind of creative risks that transcend previous film and TV versions to deliver a bold new vision ignited by a fresh context.
Stoppard's other notable screenwriting or co-screenwriting credits include Despair (1978), based on the novel by Vladimir Nabokov and directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, The Romantic Englishwoman (1975), and The Russia House (1990), based on the novel by John le Carré, the English-language version of Vatel (2000), and the suspense-thriller Enigma (2001), based on the novel by Robert Harris.
Born Tomas Straussler in Zlìn, Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic, in 1937, Stoppard was just two years old when his family fled imminent Nazi occupation for Singapore, where his father was killed at the start of the Pacific War. Stoppard, with his mother and brother, lived in India for the duration of the war and finally settled in England following WWII in 1946. After she wed Major Kenneth Stoppard of the British Army, Stoppard assumed his stepfather's surname.
Stoppard began his career in England in 1954 first as a journalist, then a film critic, soon moving to London in 1960 to focus on being a playwright. After penning a series of short radio plays in the mid-'50s, his debut full-length stage play, "A Walk on the Water" (1960), which was televised in the UK in 1963, later reached the London stage with a version titled "Enter a Free Man" (1968). He earned wider critical acclaimed for his next major work, "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" (1966), an absurdist, existential tragicomedy which expands the exploits of two originally minor characters in Shakespeare's "Hamlet," when it premiered at the 1966 Edinburgh Festival to rave reviews, later becoming internationally known during its ran at the Britain's National Theatre in 1967 and, ultimately, adapted and directed two decades later by Stoppard himself for his acclaimed 1990 indie film co-starring Gary Oldman and Tim Roth.
Over the course of five decades, the prolific Stoppard has written numerous feature film scripts, teleplays, radio plays, and short stories, as well as over 40 stage plays, including such acclaimed works as "Professional Foul" (1977), "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour" (1978), "The Real Thing" (1982) and "Rock 'N Roll" (2006). Considered a master of comic invention, visual humor, and witty wordplay, Stoppard has employed his considerable skills to investigate philosophical questions in a surprisingly entertaining manner, and no contemporary playwright has been as successful as Stoppard in creating his collection of "serious comedies" - humorous plays that manage to deal seriously with important ideas and issues. Over the course of theatrical playwright career, Stoppard's creative contributions have earned him a quartet of Tony Awards for Best Play: first in 1968 for "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead," in 1976 for "Travesties," in 1984 for "The Real Thing" (as well as a 2000 Tony for Best Revival of a Play), and in 2006 for the three-play cycle "Coast of Utopia." He has also been Tony-nominated an additional three times: in 1995 for "Arcadia," in 2001 for "The Invention of Love," and in 2008 for "Rock 'N Roll."
Stoppard received the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 1994 and BBC Award for Best Play for his play "Arcadia" at the Royal National Theatre. His drama, "The Invention of Love," was nominated for a 1998 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best New Play of the 1997 season. His play, "The Coast of Utopia" ("Voyage/Shipwreck/Salvage") performed at the Royal National Theatre, was nominated for a 2003 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for BBC Award for Best New Play of 2002. His play, "The Invention of Love," garnered the London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Play in 1997, as well as a 2001 New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play.
Having been a key playwright for Britain's National Theatre and one of the most internationally performed dramatists of this generation, accordingly, he has received numerous British honorary degrees, as well as honored with a knighthood in the United Kingdom: in 1972 he was elected as a Fellow in the Royal Society of Literature, in 1978 he was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the Queen's Honours List, and in 1997 named Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen's Honours List for his services to drama. In 2000, Stoppard also received the OM (Order of Merit) on the Queen's Honours List for his services to drama, the same year he also received an honorary doctorate from Yale University and an honorary degree from Cambridge University. In 2007, he received the UK Critics' Circle Award for Distinguished Service for the Arts.
Stoppard's other television writing or co-writing credits include the telefilms A Separate Piece (1966), Neutral Ground (1968), The Boundary (1975), Three Men in a Boat (1975), On the Razzle (1983), Squaring the Circle (1984), Largo Desolato (1990), and a trio of TV adaptations of his own celebrated plays Travesties (1977), A Walk on the Water (1978), and The Dog It Was That Died (1989), as well as Poodle Springs (1998, Teleplay by Tom Stoppard, Based on the Novel by Robert Parker and Raymond B. Chandler). Most recently, Stoppard wrote multiple episodes of the BBC/HBO WWI-era miniseries Parade's End, based on the novels by Ford Madox Ford, for which he served as executive producer.
His other playwright credits include Albert's Bridge (1968), which received Italy's Prix Italia, Jumpers (1972), which received the Evening Standard Award for Best Play, Night and Day (1978), which garnered the Evening Standard Award for Best Play, In the Native State (1991), The 15-Minute Hamlet (1995), and Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth (2005). In addition to his own works, during the '80s, Stoppard translated many international plays into English, including works by Mrozek, Nestroy, Schnitzler, and Havel, as the influence of such Polish and Czech absurdists increasingly informed his own work. During his literary career, Stoppard has written a lone novel, Lord Malquist and Mr. Moon, published in 1966 and set in contemporary London.
Just as themes involving human rights, censorship, and political freedom inform his written work, in his personal life Stoppard remains concerned about a number of human rights issues and, as a result, has been active over the years in Amnesty International's global humanitarian efforts. He continues to be a patron of the UK's Shakespeare Schools Festival, a charity which enables school children across Britain to perform Shakespeare in professional theatres.
Awarded to a Writers Guild member who has advanced the literature of motion pictures and made outstanding contributions to the profession of the screenwriter, the WGAW's Laurel Award for Screen has been presented in past years to such iconic screenwriters as David Mamet, Lawrence Kasdan, Robert Benton, Barry Levinson, Steven Zaillian, and Eric Roth.
Photo Credit: Walter McBride / WM Photos