Jez Butterworth

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Jez Butterworth
Born Jeremy Butterworth
March 1969 (age 48)
London, England
Occupation Playwright, screenwriter, film director
Notable works Mojo (1995)
Mojo (adapted for screen) (1997)
Birthday Girl (2001)
The Night Heron (2002)
Parlour Song (2008)
Jerusalem (2009)

Jeremy "Jez" Butterworth (born March 1969) is an English playwright, screenwriter, and film director. He has written screenplays in collaboration with his brothers, John-Henry and Tom.

Life and career[edit]

Butterworth was born in London, England. His brother Steve is a producer and brothers Tom and John-Henry are also writers. He attended Verulam Comprehensive School, St Albans and St John's College, Cambridge.

Butterworth has had major success with his play Mojo (which premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in 1995). It won the Laurence Olivier, an Evening Standard , The Writer's Guild and the George Devine awards, and the Critic's Circle Award.

Butterworth wrote and directed the film adaptation of Mojo, released in 1997. This featured Harold Pinter. A major influence on Butterworth's work is 2005 Nobel Literature Laureate Harold Pinter: "I know and admire Harold Pinter enormously. He has a ginormous influence on me. Conversations with him have inspired my work."[1]

He directed and co-wrote with his brother Tom the film Birthday Girl (2001), which was produced by his brother Steve and starred Nicole Kidman.

Butterworth also achieved positive reviews with his plays The Night Heron (which premiered at the Royal Court in 2002) and The Winterling (also at the Royal Court in 2006). In May 2007 Butterworth received the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

His play Parlour Song[2] opened to "rave reviews" at the Atlantic Theatre Company, in New York City in March 2008.[1] The Almeida Theatre presented its European première in March 2009.

Butterworth's fourth play for the Royal Court was the comedy Jerusalem, which premiered in July 2009 to outstandingly positive reviews. Described as a "contemporary vision of life in [England's] green and pleasant land", Jerusalem was the second important Butterworth production in London in 2009.[3] The production starred Mark Rylance as Johnny Byron, and featured Mackenzie Crook as Ginger in a supporting role. It was a sell-out at the Royal Court, won the Evening Standard Theatre Award and Critics' Circle Theatre Award for the best play of 2009 and, with the same cast, transferred to the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue in January 2010. Jerusalem opened on Broadway, New York, in April 2011, with many of the original UK cast. It returned to London later that year, again playing at the Apollo. In January 2014 Jerusalem opened at the San Francisco Playhouse, where it also received raving reviews.[4] In May 2011, Jerusalem was nominated for a Tony Award[5] and Mark Rylance, in the role of Johnny 'Rooster' Byron, won the Tony Award of Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play.

Jez and John-Henry Butterworth were named recipients of the Writers Guild of America West's 2011 Paul Selvin Award for their screenplay for the film Fair Game (2010), directed by Doug Liman and starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn.

On 26 October 2012, Butterworth's play The River opened at the Royal Court Theatre, starring Dominic West, Laura Donnelly and Miranda Raison. The River had its US premiere on Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre in a limited engagement in October 2014, starring Hugh Jackman and directed by Ian Rickson.[6]

Butterworth's most recent play, The Ferryman, opened at the Royal Court Theatre in April 2017. Directed by Sam Mendes,[7] it became the fastest selling play in the Royal Court Theatre's history. Set in Rural Derry in 1981 and focussing on the events surrounding the deaths of the IRA hunger strikers, it received 15 five-star reviews, including all the major UK papers. The Irish Times said "Although Butterworth is English, The Ferryman feels like a thoroughly Irish play, not only because there is not a single false note in the dialogue." The Huffington Post called it "one of the two or three greatest plays of the decade". However, the Guardian's Sean O'Hagan wrote "I'm from Northern Ireland and it doesn't ring true".[8] Two weeks later The Irish Times printed an article entitled "In defence of The Ferryman" which directly challenged Sean O'Hagan's claims, calling the play "layered and powerful".[9]



  • Mojo (1995) Royal Court Theatre
  • The Night Heron (2002)
  • The Winterling (2006)
  • Parlour Song (2008)
  • Jerusalem (2009) Royal Court Theatre
  • The River (2012)[11]
  • The Ferryman (2017) Royal Court Theatre[12]


  • Night of the Golden Brain (1993)
  • Christmas (1996)
  • Britannia (2018)[14]



  1. ^ a b Erik Piepenburg (23 March 2008). "An Edge-of-Town Story as Simple as the Blues". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 March 2008. 
  2. ^ Butterworth, J. (2009) Parlour Song, Nick Hern Books, London. ISBN 978-1-84842-026-7
  3. ^ Brantley, Ben (19 July 2009). "Time, and the Green and Pleasant Land". the New York Times. 
  4. ^ "SF Gate". SF Gate. Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  5. ^ Edemariam, Aida (14 May 2011). "The Saturday interview: Jez Butterworth". The Guardian. London. 
  6. ^ Hetrick, Adam. " 'The River', Starring Tony Winner Hugh Jackman, Will Open at Broadway's Circle in the Square This Fall" Archived 12 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine., 9 May 2014
  7. ^ Hewis, Ben (October 31, 2017). "Sam Mendes to direct Jez Butterworth play in new Royal Court season". Retrieved April 5, 2017. 
  8. ^ O'Hagan, Sean (16 July 2017). "Critics loved The Ferryman. But I'm from Northern Ireland, and it doesn't ring true". the Guardian. 
  9. ^ Lee, Gerard (1 August 2017). "In defence of The Ferryman by Jez Butterworth". the Irish Times. 
  10. ^ "Jez Butterworth". Retrieved 1 January 2018. 
  11. ^ Bowie-Sell, Daisy (11 June 2012). "Royal Court announces new play from 'Jerusalem' writer Jez Butterworth". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  12. ^ "the ferryman". Royal Court Theatre. Retrieved 1 January 2017. 
  13. ^ "Jez Butterworth". IMDb. Retrieved 1 January 2018. 
  14. ^ "Giant squid and sexed-up druids: is Britannia Jez Butterworth's mad masterpiece? | Television & radio | The Guardian". Retrieved 11 January 2018. 

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