Sir Ronald Harwood, the Oscar-winning British screenwriter for The Pianist and movies like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The Dresser, and Quartet, is dead. He was 85 years old.
His agent, Judy Daish, told the BBC that Harwood died of natural causes on Tuesday.
Harwood wrote the screenplay for Roman Polanski’s World War II drama The Pianist, which earned him the 2003 Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay twice for 1983’s The Dresser and 2007’s The Diving Bell and The Butterfly.
Highly respected in Hollywood for his film work, in his native England, Harwood was known as the author of several novels, but above all as one of the country’s leading dramatists. “The movies I make for the money,” Harwood told The Guardian in an interview in 2016. “It’s very good money, no doubt. And we are overpaid, obviously overpaid, but still, I’m not complaining. But writing for the theater is what I liked the most because it’s about language, relationships, and language. ”
Born in South Africa in 1934, Harwood moved to the UK in the 1950s to study at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Harwood was born Ronald Horwitz but changed his name to English while living in Britain.
He worked in the theater for several years before moving on to writing and his first novel All the Same Shadows was published in 1961. His first screenplay, Private Potter, followed in 1962 with Tom Courtenay, an actor with whom Harwood would later collaborate. different projects. On stage, Harwood’s comedy March Hares was first performed in 1964.
Harwood is perhaps best known for his play The Dresser, which premiered in London’s West End in 1980 and moved to Broadway a year later. The Dresser tells the story of an old Shakespearean actor and his personal assistant, or boudoir, and details their complex relationship. The show was based on Harwood’s experience as a dressing room for actor Sir Donald Wolfit.
The original production of The Dresser featured Courtenay in the role of Norman and Freddie Jones in the role of “Sir.” The Broadway production, which ran for 200 shows, saw Courtenay return as Norman with Paul Rogers playing “Sir.” In 1983, The Dresser was adapted for the cinema by Harwood, with the film starring Albert Finney as “Sir” and Courtenay again as Norman. A huge critical success, the film was nominated for five failed Oscars, with Courtenay and Finney nominated for Best Actor, Harwood nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, a Best Director nomination for Peter Yates, and the Best Picture.
The Dresser was also adapted for radio and most recently for television in 2015 by the BBC in a critically acclaimed production in which Anthony Hopkins played “Sir” and Ian McKellan played Norman.
On The Dresser’s enduring popularity, Harwood told The Guardian in 2016: “I have no idea what its enduring appeal is, not really. It was my first big hit, of course, and I love it and am very proud of it. ., but I’m baffled by its popularity. I’m still proud of the relationships and feelings within the show, it’s an emotion game; it’s not a mind game, it’s about the heart and that’s what I like. ”
His other notable works include the Nazi drama Taking Sides (1995) and Quartet (1999), a dramatic comedy about elderly opera singers in a retirement home for musicians. Both works have been adapted to the cinema. The 2012 film adaptation of the Quartet was the directorial debut of Dustin Hoffman, and he starred as frequent collaborators Courtenay, Maggie Smith, Gwyneth Jones, Michael Gambon, and Billy Connolly.
Despite the script being a minor run, Harwood was still relatively prolific. Wrote the scripts for Mike Figgis’ The Browing Version (1994), the Apartheid drama Cry, The Beloved Country (1995), Norman Jewison’s The Statement (2003), Annette Benning-Jeremy Irons star Being Julia (2004, Polanski’s (2005) adaptation of Oliver Twist, Mike Newell’s Love in the Time of Cholera (2007) and co-wrote the screenplay for Baz Luhrmann’s Spectacular Australia (2008).
Harwood has received numerous international honors and awards throughout his life. The UK awarded him an O.B.E. in 1999 and a knighthood in 2010 for his services to drama. The French government made him a Knight of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1996 and he has received numerous honorary titles.