Ronald Harwood CBE, playwright, novelist and winner of the 2003 Academy Award for the screenplay of The Pianist, directed by Roman Polanski.

In the early 1950s, Ronald Harwood abandoned his own acting aspirations to become the backstage dresser for Sir Donald Wolfit, the renowned actor. That experience led to the writing of "The Dresser", a hit play in London (1980) and on Broadway (1981) which subsequently became a successful film (1983) starring Tom Courtenay as the fictional Harwood character and Albert Finney as the burnt-out Wolfit who comes alive only with the smell of greasepaint and the roar of the crowd. But Harwood has hardly been a one-note writer. With a long list of heralded stage, film, and TV credits, the South African-born, London-based writer's fame had not yet peaked in the 90s after more than 30 years of productions.

Harwood (born Ronald Horwitz) began his career as an actor in the early 50s, appearing in some Shakespearean productions and with Wolfit's company before becoming his dresser. Although Harwood would later (1978-79) host the BBC series "Read All About It" on books, and host the BBC radio magazine show, "Kaleidoscope" (1973), he had mostly abandoned performing by 1960 when his first teleplay, "The Barber of Stamford Hill" was produced. He wrote numerous British dramas during the 60s, 70s and 80s, and is best known internationally for "The Summit: A Nuclear Age Drama" (1987), about the Reykjavik conference between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. He also scripted the TV-movie biopic "Evita Peron" (NBC, 1981), starring Faye Dunaway. Harwood firmed his reputation in America with HBO's "Mandela" (1987), which starred Danny Glover and Alfre Woodard as Nelson and Winnie Mandela and was one of the pay TV service's first original films. It also brought world attention to Mandela's prison status and the cause of apartheid in South Africa. Harwood, who had left South Africa more than 40 years ago, nevertheless wrote about his birth-land with his feature adaptation of "Cry, the Beloved Country" (1995).

His first feature film was an adaptation of his own "The Barber of Stamford Hill" (1963), co-written with Casper Wrede. Harwood has subsequently written such films as "Cromwell" (1970), with Richard Harris as the 16th Century British leader trying to abolish the monarchy, "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" (1971), starring Tom Courtenay as a prisoner in a Siberian camp (not to be confused with an earlier TV version of the Solzhenitsyn novel), and "A Fine Romance" (1992), starring Julie Andrews and Marcello Mastroianni as a couple cheated on by their spouses and tempted by romance themselves. Although Harwood began his career as a stage actor, he had TV and film projects produced before he became established as a playwright with "Country Matters", produced in Manchester, England, in 1969. Despite writing numerous plays since, none has reached the international acclaim of "The Dresser" and most have been produced only in England, sometimes outside of London. An exception is his "Taking Sides", about the German conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler and his possible complicity with the Nazis that was produced on Broadway in 1996 with Ed Harris and Daniel Massey.

Harwood has also published more than a half dozen novels, as well as collections of essays and short stories. He has also edited a biography of John Gielgud (1984), and written the definitive work on Sir Donald Wolfit (1971).

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