On this 11th episode of Media Mayhem, Allison sits with author, playwright and Academy Award winning screenwriter Sir Ronald Harwood. Allison and Sir Ronald discuss the story behind his first hit play, “The Dresser,” as well as his work for the big screen since winning the Oscar for “Best Adapted Screenplay” for “The Pianist.” Towards the end of the hour, Sir Ronald talks about his third collaboration with Roman Polanski and his personal relationship with the director.
Sir Ronald also weighs in on the current state of journalism, the fall-out from the Murdoch phone hacking scandal, and his loyalty to Israel and his feelings about the country’s political leaders.
He also expounds on the process of adapting plays to screenplays and the difference between working in theater and film, gives his take on the British class system and tells a riveting tale of what it was like to be knighted by Prince Charles.
Sir Ronald Harwood is an author, playwright and Academy Award winning screenwriter who was a recipient of the Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire in 2010 for his services to drama. He was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, and moved to London at the age of 17 to pursue a career in the theater. When he was 25 and unemployed, he received a typewriter as a gift and wrote his first novel, All The Same Shadows.
Sir Ronald hasn’t stopped writing since that pivotal moment. He has worked steadily in the theater, writing the acclaimed play “The Dresser” in 1980. The play, based on Sir Ronald’s own experience as a dresser to the British actor Sir Donald Wolfit, was a sensation on the stage and was subsequently made into a film starring Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay. The film received a total of five Academy Award nominations, including a best adapted screenplay nomination for Sir Ronald.
In 2003 he won the Academy Award for “Best Adapted screeplay” for “The Pianist,” and was nominated again in the same category for “The Diving Bell and The Butterfly.”
He is also a prolific playwright who is the author of “Taking Sides,” which is based on the life of Wilhelm Furtwangler, the controversial conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic during the Nazi era, who was prosecuted after the war on charges of being a Nazi sympathizer. His most recent play, “Collaboration,” is about the conduct of composer Richard Strauss during the Third Reich.
Filming is currently underway on a movie version of his hit play “Quartet.” The movie which marks Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut, stars Dame Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Billy Connelly and Tom Courtenay.
00:00 Intro for Sir Walter Harwood.
02:50 Cast correction.
03:20 Is “Quartet” your most successful play to date?
03:55 How do you feel about adapting plays to the film?
04:59 What kinds of changes do you need to make when transferring a play to film?
06:50 So, do you worry about the integrity of your work suffering as a result of changing mediums effect you?
07:55 Tell us about the early success you had in the theater and how you became a writer.
14:15 You said you never noticed the class system in England. What are your thoughts about it?
16:35 So, is the whole class system stereotype of English culture a media export?
18:35 How has the theater been a vehicle for you to address political, social and moral issues? Is it important to address these issues?
23:58 When you write about it do you expect the audience to decide whether the characters are making the right choices?
24:34 Is there an obligation for artists to use their gifts appropriately?
26:27 I know you are a strong supporter of Israel. Does that keep you from criticizing their policies and/or politics?
28:08 How do you feel about the comparison of Isreali-Palestinian relations to South African Apartheid?
30:30 Have you finished writing your biography?
31:05 Tell us about becoming a knight. What was that like?
38:40 Give us your perspective on the Murdoch/News of the World case and the medias behavior in response to it?
46:00 People may want the content, but isn’t the manner in which they get it important?
49:03 What’s being exposed in England must be happening here, right?
51:25 Talk about what is happening to honest ‘watchdog’ journalism around the world?
55:35 Mayhem round with Producer Nick.
56:30 Do you think that the public should be able to judge artists’ art based on their personal lives?
59:10 Should anyone be safe from personal attacks from the media?
1:00:00 What about working with certain artists like Roman Polanski for example?
1:01:06 What are you working on with Roman Polanski?
1:02:50 Do you see motion picture acting in the same category as theater acting? What about motion capture acting?
1:04:50 Do you talk with actors about the differences when transitioning from theater to film acting?
1:06:15 What new projects can we expect from you in the future?
1:09:12 Wrap up.