skip navigation
Tom Stoppard

Tom Stoppard

Up
Down

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (0)

Recent DVDs

 
 

Tom Stoppard - NOT AVAILABLE

Find what you're looking for faster. Use the search field below to shop for titles.

SEARCH TCM.COM/SHOP

Also Known As: Tom Straussler, Sir Tom Stoppard Died:
Born: July 3, 1937 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Profession: playwright, screenwriter, director, journalist, critic

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Celebrated for his verbal acrobatics and madcap intellectual conceits, playwright Tom Stoppard was also one of the more prolific script doctors in Hollywood for decades. After bursting onto the London theatre scene in the late 1960s with his absurdist masterpiece "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead," Stoppard established himself as a linguistic gymnast with farces like "Travesties" (1974) prior to addressing more serious concerns in such plays as "Night and Day' (1978). The playwright soon made a name for himself adapting literary works to film with projects like novelist Graham Greene's "The Human Factor" (1979). Eventually moving on to original script work, Stoppard collaborated on Terry Gilliam's cult classic "Brazil" (1985) and even provided uncredited work on director Steven Spielberg's "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989). He received high marks with his directorial debut for the film version of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" (1990) and 25 years after his first stage hit, proved he was still a vibrant voice in the theater with the intellectual drama "Arcadia" (1993). Director John Madden's "Shakespeare in Love" (1998) earned him both mainstream success and an Academy Award....

Celebrated for his verbal acrobatics and madcap intellectual conceits, playwright Tom Stoppard was also one of the more prolific script doctors in Hollywood for decades. After bursting onto the London theatre scene in the late 1960s with his absurdist masterpiece "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead," Stoppard established himself as a linguistic gymnast with farces like "Travesties" (1974) prior to addressing more serious concerns in such plays as "Night and Day' (1978). The playwright soon made a name for himself adapting literary works to film with projects like novelist Graham Greene's "The Human Factor" (1979). Eventually moving on to original script work, Stoppard collaborated on Terry Gilliam's cult classic "Brazil" (1985) and even provided uncredited work on director Steven Spielberg's "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989). He received high marks with his directorial debut for the film version of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" (1990) and 25 years after his first stage hit, proved he was still a vibrant voice in the theater with the intellectual drama "Arcadia" (1993). Director John Madden's "Shakespeare in Love" (1998) earned him both mainstream success and an Academy Award. The recently knighted Sir Stoppard later penned a screen version of Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" (2012) for an ambitious undertaking starring Keira Knightly in the title role. Defying easy categorization, Stoppard constantly pushed himself as an artist even as he enjoyed the fruits of his more commercial labors.

Born Tomá¿ Straüssler on July 3, 1937 in Zlín, Czechoslovakia, he was the son of Martha Beckova and Eugen Straüssler, a doctor employed with the Bata shoe company, as were most of the small town's residents. Although neither was practicing, the fact that the Straüsslers were Jewish prompted their departure once the Germans began their occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1938. Like many of his coworkers, Eugen sought refuge for his family at another Bata company location in Singapore. Before long, however, the Japanese invasion of that country forced the doctor to place his wife and two sons on board a freighter bound for Austria. Knowing that his services would be needed in Singapore, Eugen remained behind, only to die in the conflict some time later. Evacuated to Darjeeling, India with his mother and brother, the five-year-old Tomá¿ began attending the American influenced, co-educational Mount Hermon School, where he soon altered his name to the Anglicized Tom. Picking up the English language came easily to Tom, whose mother remarried to a British major named Kenneth Stoppard in 1945. The following year, the Stoppard family relocated to England and Tom continued his education at the Dolphin School in Nottinghamshire, completing his studies at Pocklington School in East Riding, Yorkshire. A degree at university, however, was not in the cards for Stoppard, who chose instead to enter a career in journalism in 1954.

Hired on as a journalist with the Western Daily Press in Bristol, the 17-year-old Stoppard began to hone his skills as a writer, although the minutia of reporting interested him little. In 1958, he was offered a position as feature writer, humorist and theater critic at the Bristol Evening World and it was there that he struck up a friendship with the young actor Peter O'Toole, who was making a name for himself on the stage of the Bristol Old Vic. Moving to London, Stoppard became a drama critic for the short-lived Scene magazine and began pursuing work as a freelance writer for radio and television. His first novel, Lord Malquist and Mr. Moon was published to little fanfare at around this time as well. Based on the response to his first stage play, "A Walk on the Water" - which was staged in Hamburg and later adapted for British television - Stoppard received a Ford Foundation grant that enabled him to write the play that would become "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead." Soon after it was first presented, the playful, breathlessly inventive "Hamlet" reinterpretation in the absurdist tradition of Beckett and Pinter made a name for Stoppard, even as it left many in the audience scratching their collective heads.

In the meantime, Stoppard made strides in his television efforts, scripting small screen adaptations of his early dramas "A Separate Peace" (BBC, 1966) and "Another Moon Called Earth" (BBC, 1967).That same year, an opening of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" at the revered Old Vic Theatre, suddenly made the struggling dramatist an overnight sensation. The following year, the playwright won his first Tony Award after the play enjoyed a successful run on Broadway. Stoppard consolidated his reputation with the philosophical whodunit "Jumpers" (1972) and the Wildean historical farce "Travesties" (1974), with the latter earning him another Tony. With his first work on a feature film, Stoppard set a precedent of collaborating with authors on adaptions of their own work, as he did with Thomas Wiseman for director Joseph Losey's "The Romantic Englishwoman" (1975). Though he had professed a desire to write a film of his own, Stoppard typically utilized his story ideas for stage plays, initially preferring to adapt the works of novelists like Jerome K. Jerome's travelogue "Three Men in a Boat" (1975), starring Tim Curry and Michael Palin. One of the criticisms frequently leveled at Stoppard had been that he employed his linguistic virtuosity strictly in an effort to entertain and impress, with no effort made to explore deeper subject matter. In response, the playwright demonstrated his global conscience when he attacked Soviet Europe's treatment of its workers in 1977's "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour" - play with music by Andre Previn - and skillfully satirized ethics (or lack thereof) in the field of journalism with the acclaimed "Night and Day" the following year.

For film, however, Stoppard stuck to his practice of interpreting existing works of literature, including an adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's "Despair" (1978) for German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder and an updating of Graham Greene's Cold War thriller "The Human Factor" (1979) with revered filmmaker Otto Preminger. As a playwright, Stoppard continued to enhance his reputation as England's preeminent man of words with such award-winning works as the contemporary love story "The Real Thing" (1982), which exposed a more personal, emotional side of the author than ever before. Breaking from his own cinematic tradition, Stoppard collaborated with Monty Python alum Terry Gilliam on the original screenplay of the eccentric filmmaker's Kafkaesque dark fantasy "Brazil" (1985) and earned himself an Oscar nomination for his efforts. Stoppard continued to loan out his talents as a work-for-hire artist in Hollywood for much of the decade, which saw little from the playwright in terms of theatrical output. He was director Steven Spielberg's choice to adapt J. G. Ballard's World War II drama "Empire of the Sun" (1987), a reasonable notion given the writer's own early childhood in war torn Singapore. Less predictable was his uncredited work on the dialogue for Spielberg's "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989), which only made Stoppard harder to define and added to his mystique.

Making his directorial debut, Stoppard helmed his own film adaptation of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" (1990) with rising stars Gary Oldman and Tim Roth in the title roles. More novel adaptations followed with a feature film version of John Le Carre's Soviet-set espionage tale "The Russia House" (1990), starring Sean Connery, and the Dustin Hoffman vehicle "Billy Bathgate" (1991), based on the mob novel by E.L. Doctorow. The stage play "Arcadia" (1993) - a tragi-comic exploration of truth, history and chaos theory - was seen not only as a triumph and return to form, but a next step in the grand evolutionary process of Stoppard as an artist. His "The Invention of Love" (1997), based on the life of English poet and classical scholar A.E. Housman, was full of the trademark Stoppard wit, but also raised questions about the crushing effect a rigid, overly righteous society has upon the individual whose leanings fall outside the accepted norm. For director Bob Rafelson, Stoppard scripted the TV movie adaptation of the private eye drama "Poodle Springs" (HBO, 1998) from crime novelist Robert B. Parker's posthumous collaboration with Raymond Chandler, who had left the novel unfinished at the time of his death.

Co-written with Marc Norman, director John Madden's "Shakespeare in Love" (1998) - a witty and romantic fictionalized account of a young William Shakespeare (Ralph Fiennes) wooing a headstrong maiden (Gwyneth Paltrow) as he attempts to write his greatest play - won Stoppard an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Long established as one of Great Britain's most valued artists, Stoppard - who had already been knighted in 1997 - was admitted to the country's Order of Merit in 2000. Stoppard later earned yet another Tony Award for Best Play with his 2002 trilogy of plays built around the philosophical debates of 19th century pre-revolutionary Russia, "The Coast of Utopia." Of all the classic literary works he had adapted for the screen, perhaps Stoppard's most ambitious undertaking was the epic "Anna Karenina" (2012), directed by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightley as Tolstoy's 19th century heroine. And after 30 years away from British television, Stoppard returned to the medium to script and executive produce the miniseries "Parade's End" (BBC, 2012). Based on a set of novels by Ford Madox Ford, it starred Benedict Cumberbatch as a man dutifully enduring a loveless marriage amidst the turmoil of World War I.

By Bryce Coleman

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1939:
Fled Czechoslovakia with mother to live in Singapore because of Jewish heritage
1942:
Moved with mother and brother to India
1945:
After mother's remarriage, family settled in Bristol, England
1954:
Worked as journalist for <i>Western Daily Press</i> in Bristol, England
:
Wrote for the Bristol <i>Evening World</i>
:
Was a freelance reporter
1962:
Briefly associated with <i>Scene</i>, a satirical magazine conceived by Peter Cook
1963:
First play performed on British TV, "A Walk on Water"
1964:
Wrote first radio play, "The Dissolution of Dominic Boot"
1965:
First produced stage play, "The Gamblers" at Bristol's Old Vic Theatre
1967:
Breakthrough stage work, "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead"; produced in both London and NYC; earned first Tony Award for Best Play
1968:
First London production of "The Real Inspector Hound"; performed as part of a 1972 double-bill with his "After Magritte" in NYC
1970:
Wrote screenplay for 44-minute film "The Engagement"
1973:
Debuted as stage director with British production of "Born Yesterday"
1974:
Had successful productions of "Travesties" in London and NYC; earned second Tony Award for Best Play
1975:
First feature screenplay, Joseph Losey's "The Romantic Englishwoman"; co-wrote with Thomas Wiseman from Wiseman's novel
1978:
Adapted the screenplay for "Despair" from the work by Vladimir Nabokov
1979:
Adapted Graham Greene's novel "The Human Factor" for the screen; last film directed by Otto Preminger
1984:
Picked up third Best Play Tony for "The Real Thing"
1985:
Received Oscar nomination for his contributions to the screenplay of "Brazil," co-written with Terry Gilliam and Charles McKeown
1987:
Adapted J.G. Ballard's novel "Empire of the Sun" for the screen; directed by Steven Spielberg
1990:
Feature directorial debut, "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead"
1990:
Using the language of his birth, translated Vaclav Havel's "Largo Desolato"
1990:
Adapted John Le Carre's novel "The Russia House" for the screen
1991:
Scripted Robert Benton's "Billy Bathgate"; adapted from the E.L. Doctorow novel
1993:
First production of "Arcadia" in London
1995:
NYC production of "Arcadia"; earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Play
1997:
Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II
1997:
Wrote stage play "The Invention of Love" based on the life of English poet and classical scholar A. E. Housman
1998:
Adapted Robert Parker's "Poodle Springs" as an HBO movie directed by Bob Rafelson
1998:
Co-wrote award-winning screenplay "Shakespeare in Love"
1999:
Reportedly did uncredited rewrite on Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow"
2000:
Contributed English translation of the script for the period drama "Vatel"; screened at Cannes
2001:
Penned the WWII-era spy drama "Enigma"; screened at Sundance
2001:
"The Invention of Love" opened on Broadway; earned a Tony nomination
2002:
Penned the trilogy "The Coast of Utopia," which focused on the philosophical debates in pre-revolutionary Russia between 1833 and 1866; plays entitled <i>Voyage</i>, <i>Shipwreck</i>, and <i>Salvage</i>, and totaled nine hours in length
2006:
Opened trilogy "The Coast of Utopia" on Broadway
2006:
Premiered play "Rock 'n' Roll" at the Royal Court Theatre
2007:
Reportedly did uncredited rewrite on "The Bourne Ultimatum," a film based on Robert Ludlum's best-selling novel
2007:
Saw NYC opening of "Rock 'n' Roll"; earned Tony nomination for Best Play
2012:
Returned to feature writing with adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina," directed by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightley
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Dolphin School: -
Pocklington School: -

Notes

"Actually, it doesn't interest me to try and simulate life in some more plausible way. There are some writers, for instance, who are far more fascinated by the differentiation of character, and I obviously have no interest in that. I'm only interested in the felicitous expression of ideas, and very often when I'm rewriting, it doesn't matter who says something--if I need those lines elsewhere I'll give them to a different character." --Tom Stoppard quoted in Vanity Fair, May 1989.

"The press loved him because he was lucid and good-looking, and his look fit in very well with the Sixties. It was not the well-dressed, well-turned-out look of the Fifties; it was a sort of challenging look. And he did resemble Mick Jagger a bit. Young people loved him. It was astounding the way the Americans took to him." --Kenneth Ewing discussing Stoppard's early playwriting career in Vanity Fair, May 1989.

"I think of myself as a theater animal instead of an intellectual animal. I love the nuts and bolts, the whole nuts and bolts of putting a play on with others. I'm a pushover for adjusting the play to the requirement of the moment. I find that part fun." --Stoppard to Los Angeles Times, April 9, 1995.

Named Commander of the British Empire in 1978

Stoppard received a 1964 Ford Foundation Grant

Awarded the Prix Italia in 1968

Stoppard received honorary degrees from Bristolin 1976, Brumel in 1979 and Leeds and Sussex, both in 1980.

Inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 2000

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Jose Ingle. Magazine researcher. Married in 1965; divorced in 1972.
wife:
Miriam Stoppard. Dermatologist, medical reporter, TV personality, author. Born on May 12, 1937; Jewish; Stoppard moved in with her in 1970; married in 1972; divorced.
companion:
Felicity Kendal. Actor. Born on September 25, 1946; appeared in Stoppard's plays "Arcadia" and "Indian Ink"; no longer together.
companion:
Padma Lakshmi. Model. Indian; dated briefly.
companion:
Marie Helvin. Former model. Reportedly dated in early 2001.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Eugene Straussler. Doctor. Jewish; worked as a doctor for a shoe company; died in enemy hands during WWII.
mother:
Martha Straussler. Born in 1911; after husband died during WWII, married British army officer Kenneth Stoppard in November 1945 in India; died in October 1996.
step-father:
Kenneth Stoppard. Army officer. Former major; met Martha Straussler when she was working in India; died in July 1997.
brother:
Peter Stoppard. Older.
half-brother:
Richard Stoppard. Born in 1949.
half-sister:
Fiona Stoppard. Born in 1955.
son:
Oliver Stoppard. Postman. Mother, Jose Ingle.
son:
Barnaby Stoppard. Director. Mother, Jose Ingle.
son:
William Stoppard. Manager. Mother, Miriam Stoppard; manages disc jockeys and music groups in England.
son:
Edmund Stoppard. Actor. Born c. 1975; mother, Miriam Stoppard; married photographer Amy Stamp in February 2001.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Introduction Z"
"Lord Malquist and Mr. Moon"
"Conversations With Stoppard" Limelight Editions

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute