Christopher Hampton

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Christopher Hampton
Christopher Hampton at the Odessa International Film Festival, 2016
Born Christopher James Hampton
(1946-01-26) 26 January 1946 (age 72)
Horta, Faial, Azores, Portugal
Occupation Playwright, screenwriter, film director
Spouse(s) Laura de Holesch (1971–present)

Christopher James Hampton, CBE, FRSL (born 26 January 1946) is a British playwright, screenwriter, translator and film director. He is best known for his play based on the novel Les Liaisons dangereuses and the film version Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and also more recently for writing the nominated screenplay for the film adaptation of Ian McEwan's Atonement.[1]

Early life and theatrical debut[edit]

Hampton was born in Faial, Azores, to British parents Dorothy Patience (née Herrington) and Bernard Patrick Hampton, a marine telecommunications engineer for Cable & Wireless.[2][3] His father's job led the family to settle in Aden and Alexandria in Egypt and later Hong Kong and Zanzibar. The Suez Crisis in 1956 necessitated that the family flee under cover of darkness, leaving their possessions behind.

After a prep school at Reigate in Surrey, Hampton attended the independent boarding school Lancing College near the village of Lancing in West Sussex at the age of 13, where he won house colours for boxing and distinguished himself as a sergeant in the Combined Cadet Force (CCF). Among his contemporaries at Lancing was David Hare, later also a dramatist; poet Harry Guest was a teacher.

From 1964, Hampton read German and French at New College, Oxford, as a Sacher Scholar. He graduated with a starred First Class Degree in 1968.[4][5]

Hampton became involved in the theatre while at Oxford University where OUDS performed his play When Did You Last See My Mother?, about adolescent homosexuality, reflecting his own experiences at Lancing.[2] Hampton sent the work to the play agent Peggy Ramsay, who interested William Gaskill in it.[2] The play was performed at the Royal Court Theatre in London, and that production soon transferred to the Comedy Theatre, resulting in Hampton, in 1966, becoming the youngest writer to have a play performed in the West End in the modern era.[2]

Stage plays[edit]

From 1968 to 1970, he worked as the Resident Dramatist at the Royal Court Theatre, and also as the company's literary manager.[2] He continued to write plays, Total Eclipse, about the French poets and lovers Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine, was first performed in 1967 and at the Royal Court in 1968, but was not well received at the time.[6] The Philanthropist (1970) is set in an English university town and was influenced by Molière's The Misanthrope. The Royal Court, delayed a staging for two years because of an uncertainty over its prospects, but the eventual production transferred to London's West End and ran for three years. It reached Broadway in 1971.[2] His agent told him after this success that: “You’ve got a choice: you can write the same play over and over for the next 30 years" or alternatively "you can decide to do something completely different every time".[7] He told her that he was writing a play about the "extermination of the Brazilian Indians in the 1960s".[7] Savages, set during the period of the military government, was first performed in 1973.

A sojourn in Hollywood led to an unproduced film adaptation of Marlowe's play Edward II and the original script for Carrington. More significantly it provided material for Tales from Hollywood (1980). It is a partly fictionalised account (the lead character's real life equivalent, Ödön von Horváth, died in Paris in 1938)[8] of exiled European writers living in the United States during the second world war. The play is partly about the different philosophies of Horwath and the German playwright Bertolt Brecht (who did live in the United States in the 1940s). Hampton told The Guardian critic Michael Billington in 2007: I lean towards the liberal writer, Horvath, rather than the revolutionary Brecht. I suppose I'm working out some internal conflict".[6] It was commissioned by the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles who first performed it in 1982.[9] The play has been adapted for television in versions for British and Polish television.[9]

Later works[edit]

Hampton won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1988 for the screen adaptation of his play Dangerous Liaisons. He was nominated again in 2007 for adapting Ian McEwan's novel Atonement.[1]

Hampton's translation into English of Michael Kunze and Sylvester Levay's Austrian musical Rebecca, based on Daphne du Maurier's book, was supposed to premiere on Broadway in 2012; however, the future of this production is uncertain as of January 2013. The scheduled production became mired in scandal when "several investors were revealed to be concoctions of a rainmaking middleman."[10]



Musicals (Book and lyrics)[edit]






  1. ^ a b Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life Of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. p. 405. ISBN 1-84854-195-3. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f John O'Mahony "Worlds of his own", The Guardian, 21 April 2001. Retrieved on 9 August 2008.
  3. ^ Christopher Hampton Biography (1946–)
  4. ^ a b Michael Coveney Hampton "A talent to adapt", The Guardian, 4 March 2006. Retrieved on 9 August 2008.
  5. ^ Healy, Patrick (2 January 2013). "'Rebecca' producer hoper for Broadway run in 2013". New York Times. Retrieved 26 January 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Billington, Michael (26 March 2007). "Free radical". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 July 2018. 
  7. ^ a b Caplan, Nina (2009). "Christopher Hampton interview". Time Out. London. Retrieved 23 July 2018. 
  8. ^ Billington, Michael (3 May 2001). "Christopher Hampton's Hollywood horrors". Retrieved 23 July 2018. 
  9. ^ a b Ng, David; Hampton, Christopher (13 October 2010). "A conversation: Christopher Hampton revisits Tales from Hollywood". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 July 2018. 
  10. ^ Healy, Patrick (2 January 2013). "'Rebecca' Producer Hopes For Broadway Run in 2013". The New York Times. 
  11. ^ Gans, Andrew. "American Premiere of Embers Will Be Part of Guthrie's Christopher Hampton Celebration". Retrieved 16 August 2012. 
  12. ^ "Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black's Stephen Ward premieres at Aldwych in December". Whats On Stage. 28 June 2013. Retrieved 28 June 2013. 


  • Massimo Verzella, "Embers di Christopher Hampton e la traduzione della malinconia", Paragrafo, II (2006), pp. 69–82

External links[edit]