Christopher Hampton

On Uma Thurman, his new play, and being feted by the Guthrie

Q: This fall, the Guthrie Theater is producing four of your plays and screening three of your films—serious gushing.
Christopher Hampton: I’m a little nervous about Appomattox, the new play. It begins with the final week of the Civil War and ends 100 years later with Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was killed in Alabama while protecting his family during a Civil Rights protest.

Nervous because you’re a Brit writing about these American issues?
CH: Yes, it will be like watching my play Les Liaisons Dangereuses open in Paris. You take your life in your hands.

You do your homework, though.
CH: Always. What really happened is more interesting than anything you could invent.

Some people will always thank you for putting Uma Thurman naked on the screen in Dangerous Liaisons. Are you okay with that?
CH: We were very protective of her—she was about 17. She’d acted a little before, and had been a model. But I was terribly fond of Uma. I guess we all were.

Do you enjoy shuttling between movies and plays?
CH: Very much, though plays have an interesting life if they continue to be produced. Movies are like novels: they’re dead when they’re done.

But you can’t control how your play will be produced.
CH: True. There was a notorious production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses in Berlin in which all of the actors wore rabbit costumes. Because, you know, the characters have so much sex. 

How were the reviews?
CH: Dreadful.

The Guthrie’s Hampton Celebration opens with Tales from Hollywood on September 15 and Appomattox on September 29.

Trace Hampton’s career back to the beginning at