Christopher Hampton

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), which received the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.[1] He was nominated in the same category for the film adaptation of Ian McEwan's Atonement (2007).[2]

Christopher Hampton

Christopher Hampton at the Odessa International Film Festival, 2016
Christopher James Hampton

(1946-01-26) 26 January 1946
OccupationPlaywright, screenwriter, film director
Spouse(s)Laura de Holesch (1971–present)

Early life and theatrical debut

Hampton was born in Faial, Azores, to British parents Dorothy Patience (née Herrington) and Bernard Patrick Hampton, a marine telecommunications engineer for Cable & Wireless.[3][4] 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.[5][6]

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.[3] Hampton sent the work to the play agent Peggy Ramsay, who interested William Gaskill in it.[3] The play was performed at the Royal Court Theatre in London, and 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.[3] Hampton's work for the cinema also began around this time. He adapted the play for Richard Attenborough and Bryan Forbes, but a film version was never made.[7]

Stage plays and other works

From 1968 to 1970, he worked as the Resident Dramatist at the Royal Court Theatre, and also as the company's literary manager.[3] 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.[8] 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 it was the Royal Court's more successful production up to that point.[3] The production transferred to the Mayfair Theatre in London's West End and ran for nearly four years, winning the Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Comedy. It reached Broadway in 1971.[3][7] 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".[9] He told her that he was writing a play about the "extermination of the Brazilian Indians in the 1960s".[9] Savages, set during the period of the military government and derived from an article "Genocide in Brazil" by Norman Lewis, was first performed in 1973.[3] His first produced film adaptation, of Ibsen'sA Doll's House, directed by Patrick Garland, stars Anthony Hopkins and Claire Bloom was released in 1973.[7]

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)[10] 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".[8] It was commissioned by the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles who first performed it in 1982.[11] The play has been adapted for television in versions for British and Polish television.[11]

Later works

Hampton won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1988 for the screen adaptation of his play Dangerous Liaisons.[1] Carrington (1995), concerning the relationship between the painter Dora Carrington and author Lytton Strachey, took 18 years to come to fruition, after multiple drafts.[7] He was Oscar nominated for a second time for the adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel Atonement.[2]

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."[12]

Since the 1990s, Hampton has been responsible for English translations of the French dramatists Yasmina Reza and Florian Zeller. Reza's Art ran for eight years in the West End. [7]

Imagining Argentina (2003), an adaptation from the novel by Lawrence Thornton, was directed by Hampton and concerns the regime of Leopoldo Galtieri. According to Hampton, the period of Argentinian history had not inspired a narrative or dramatic work before. "I decided to do something which it would be difficult to finance at a time when, for once, I was bombarded with offers.[5]



  • 1964 – When Did You Last See My Mother?
  • 1967 – Total Eclipse
  • 1969 – The Philanthropist
  • 1973 – Savages
  • 1975 – Treats
  • 1984 – Tales From Hollywood
  • 1991 – White Chameleon
  • 1994 – Alice's Adventures Under Ground
  • 2002 – The Talking Cure
  • 2012 – Appomattox[13]

Musicals (Book and lyrics)






  1. Moreton, Cole (24 February 2008). "Christopher Hampton: The award for least prepared speech goes to..." The Independent on Sunday. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  2. "Academy Award nominations for 'Atonement'". 23 January 2008. Archived from the original on 29 January 2008.
  3. John O'Mahony "Worlds of his own", The Guardian, 21 April 2001. Retrieved on 9 August 2008.
  4. Christopher Hampton Biography (1946–)
  5. Coveney, Michael (4 March 2006). "A talent to adapt". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  6. Healy, Patrick (2 January 2013). "'Rebecca' producer hoper for Broadway run in 2013". New York Times. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  7. Smurthwaite, Nick (8 July 2016). "Christopher Hampton: 'For as long as I can remember, all I wanted was to be a writer'". The Stage. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  8. Billington, Michael (26 March 2007). "Free radical". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  9. Caplan, Nina (2009). "Christopher Hampton interview". Time Out. London. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  10. Billington, Michael (3 May 2001). "Christopher Hampton's Hollywood horrors". Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  11. Ng, David; Hampton, Christopher (13 October 2010). "A conversation: Christopher Hampton revisits Tales from Hollywood". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  12. Healy, Patrick (2 January 2013). "'Rebecca' Producer Hopes For Broadway Run in 2013". The New York Times.
  13. Gans, Andrew. "American Premiere of Embers Will Be Part of Guthrie's Christopher Hampton Celebration". Archived from the original on 31 January 2013. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  14. "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
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