( b. Oct 10, 1930 Hackney, London, ENGLAND - d. Dec 24, 2008 London, ENGLAND ) Male
He was nothing less than "our God -- the man who wrote the plays you wanted to be in," as actor Michael Gambon described playwright Harold Pinter. Pinter's plays mixed menace, loneliness, humor and pregnant pauses with such distinction that he inspired the adjective "Pinteresque."
The British writer earned two Oscar nominations in a career that included more than 20 screenplays, poetry and one novel. After 30 plays that made him one of the most significant and influential figures in contemporary drama, he won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2005.
While Pinter's early work, starting with his first full-length play The Birthday Party in 1958, often centered on emotional power struggles, his writing became more about political power in the 1980s as he became an activist speaking out against censorship and repression.
Pinter often gave clues to his characters but refused to explain them, which was a radical move at the time, though it has been widely imitated since. The writer compared the audience's experience to overhearing a conversation. The strangers don't give you any idea of their backgrounds, and it's up to the eavesdropper to decide what their relationships are, who's telling the truth, and what they're talking about.
On the page, his dialogue often looks benign, full of non sequiturs and silences. But Pinter had begun as an actor and knew how to write for actors, and the material is much richer than it may seem at first glance.
His first full-length play, The Birthday Party, garnered poor reviews in its London preem in 1958, but The Caretaker, about two brothers' volatile relationship with an old tramp, earned him a passionate critical following and cemented his reputation two years later.
Pinter appeared in a 1969 London production of his The Homecoming, which had won him a Tony in 1967. He also starred with Liv Ullmann in a 1985 revival of Old Times in Los Angeles.
As an actor, he appeared in more than 20 films, mostly in small roles, including "Mansfield Park," Mike Nichols' "Wit" and 2001's "The Tailor of Panama." He did a brief bit on a TV screen in 2007's "Sleuth," which he scripted.
He did film adaptations of his own plays including "Birthday Party" in 1968 for director William Friedkin and "The Homecoming" for Peter Hall in 1973. But as a screenwriter, he mostly adapted the work of others. He wrote the screenplays for three of Joseph Losey's best-regarded films: "The Servant" (1963), "Accident" (1966) and "The Go-Between" (1971).
Pinter received Oscar nominations for his adaptations of "The French Lieutenant's Woman" (1980) and "Betrayal" (1981), the latter adapted from his play.
Other screenplays include "The Pumpkin Eater" (1964), "The Quiller Memorandum" (1966), "The Last Tycoon" (1976), "The Comfort of Strangers" (1990) and "The Handmaid's Tale" (1990). TV adaptations of his plays include "Old Times," "The Room" and "The Dumb Waiter."
His final play was the one-act "Celebration," a dissection of nouveau riche vulgarity and hollow self-deception set in an upscale London restaurant. It was presented on a double bill with Pinter's first play, The Room (1957), in an Almeida Theater production directed by the playwright in 2000, and, more recently, at Off Broadway's Atlantic Theater.
In his last years he grew increasingly frail, delivering his Nobel lecture on videotape from London because he was unable to travel. Still, Pinter had not given up the stage entirely. In 2006 he appeared in a Royal Court Theater production of Krapp's Last Tape by Samuel Beckett, the minimalist writer whose work was widely regarded as a key influence on Pinter's plays.