Life of Drama

A short history of Christopher Hampton

Playwright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton is getting the red-carpet treatment at the Guthrie Theater this fall, similar to the theater’s celebration of Tony Kushner a few years back. Hampton has moved seamlessly between screen and stage, and you’ve likely seen his work without knowing it. Now, with the Guthrie screening three of his movies and producing four of his plays, including the brand-new Appomattox, he’s taking center stage.

1946: Hampton is born to British parents in the Azores. Later, they move to Egypt, Hong Kong, and Zanzibar before returning to England.

1966: While at Oxford University, Hampton’s play When Did You Last See My Mother? is staged in London’s West End—he was the youngest writer to have a play performed there.

1982: Hampton is commissioned to write a play about European writers Bertolt Brecht, Thomas and Heinrich Mann, and others who fled to Los Angeles in the 1930s. The result, Tales of Hollywood, portrayed the exiles as curmudgeonly gripers and was given a lukewarm reception but is now considered his finest play. (The Guthrie is staging it.)

1988: Hampton writes the screenplay for Dangerous Liaisons, which wins him an Oscar.

2002: Hampton writes the screenplay for The Quiet American.

2007: Hampton’s screenplay for Atonement nets him an Oscar nomination.

2011: A Dangerous Method, based on Hampton’s play The Talking Cure and the John Kerr novel A Most Dangerous Method, is directed by David Cronenberg, starring Viggo Mortensen and Keira Knightley.

2012: Appomattox, commissioned by the Guthrie, debuts during the Hampton celebration. It begins with the end of the Civil War and shifts to the Civil Rights movement, one hundred years later.

Learn more in the Q&A with Christopher Hampton.