Continuing with my fellow Massey University alumi after my previous post with Shehan Karunatilaka, another writer with kiwi connections… well… screenwriter, novelist, playwright, journalist, film director and producer, Anthony McCarten also graced our Varsity’s hallowed halls. Born in New Plymouth on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, Anthony worked as a reporter for The Taranaki Herald for a couple of years before studying for an Arts Degree at both Massey and nearby Victoria. While there he attended Bill Manhire’s famous creative writing course. This was followed by a period of unemployment, a stint on the boards in a production of the Bard’s KING LEAR and writing, including two abandoned novels and some poetry, but a meeting with Stephen Sinclair in 1987 at a NZ Playwrights’ Workshop resulted in them writing LADIES NIGHT together in six days, which is now New Zealand’s most successful commercial play.
First performed at Auckland’s Mercury Theatre, it had several national sell-out tours in the UK and has been translated into sixteen languages. It continues to play worldwide. The French version at the Theatre Rive Gauche in Paris won the Moliere Award for stage comedy in 2001. Since 1984, fifteen of his plays have been performed, the latest, A BEAUTIFUL NOISE – THE NEIL DIAMOND MUSICAL opened at the Broadhurst Theatre on Broadway earlier this month, following a four-week run in June at the Emerson Colonial Theatre in Boston.
Anthony has written nine novels, translated into 14 languages, winning several accolades. His fourth, SHOW OF HANDS, was adapted into a movie directed by the author in 2008 and nominated for for Best Picture and Best Director at the New Zealand Film Awards. His 2017 work of historical non-fiction, DARKEST HOUR: HOW CHURCHILL BOUGHT US BACK FROM THE BRINK was turned into a critically acclaimed biopic with Gary Oldman in the lead role. DARKEST HOUR received 5 Academy Award nominations with Anthony given a nod for Best Picture as producer. He also collected two BAFTA noms for Best Film and Best British Film.
Since 1999 he has written nine screenplays, receiving nominations for four Oscars, eight BAFTAs and a Golden Globe. The 2014 biographical romantic drama THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, detailing the life of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, which Anthony adapted from Jane Hawking’s 2007 memoir, TRAVELLING TO INFINITY: MY LIFE WITH STEPHEN was nominated for six Oscars. He was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. It also received 10 BAFTA noms with Anthony winning two for his adapted script and Best British. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (2018) was nominated for the BAFTA’s Outstanding British Film and the following year THE TWO POPES garnered Anthony Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for his adapted screenplay. His latest screen project is an adaption of his 2022 play THE COLLABORATION, exploring the relationship between artists Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, which originated at London’s Young Vic earlier this year, featuring Paul Bettany and Jeremy Pope and directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah. The Broadway transfer is currently in previews at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, opening 20 December with Paul and Jeremy reprising their roles, also directed by Kwame. All three are also involved in the film adaptation.
As you can see, Anthony is one of the busiest people on the planet, but I managed to catch up with him at The Old Vic in February during the first week of THE COLLABORATION, where we acknowledged our Massey alumni status and he signed my portrait sketch.