Born in Liverpool on May 15, 1926, Peter Shaffer was educated at St. Paul’s and Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied history. He went on to write more than 18 plays including the stage classics Equus (1973) and Amadeus (1979), which were both adapted into films. The film version of Amadeus won eight Oscars including an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Shaffer and Best Picture. Shaffer died on June 6, 2016 in Ireland at the age of 90.
Shaffer launched his theater career with his debut play, Five-Finger Exercise, which was directed by John Gielgud in 1958 and well-received in both London and New York. He followed that success with the 1964 hit The Royal Hunt of the Sun in 1964, which was the first staging of a new play at the National Theatre in London. In 1965, he wrote the farce Black Comedy, starring Maggie Smith, Albert Finney and Derek Jacobi.
In 1973, Equus premiered, one of Shaffer's most well-known plays about a teenage stable boy and his disturbing obsession with horses. Equus won a Tony Award and was adapted into a 1977 film directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Peter Firth and Richard Burton. Shaffer was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for the film version of Equus. In 2007, the play was revived in the West End and on Broadway, featuring Daniel Radcliffe in his stage debut.
In 1979, Shaffer had another Tony Award-winning hit with Amadeus, his play about the rivalry between composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri. The play was adapted into a film in 1984, directed by Milos Forman and starring Tom Hulce as Mozart and F. Murray Abraham as Salieri. The film won eight Oscars including an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Shaffer and Best Picture.
Shaffer also wrote the comedy Lettice and Lovage, which was staged in 1987 and starred Maggie Smith in a Tony Award-winning performance.
Shaffer wrote over 18 play over the course of his career. Queen Elizabeth II knighted him in 2001, and he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2007.
Shaffer's twin brother Anthony was also a playwright who wrote the play Sleuth (1970), which was adapted into an Oscar-nominated movie.
Death & Legacy
Shaffer died on June 6, 2016 while visiting southwestern Ireland. He was 90 years old. Following Shaffer's death, his agent Rupert Lord described the playwright in a statement as "one of the true greats of British theatre as well as a wonderful friend, wickedly funny man and sparkling raconteur whose lifelong passion for his own art was matched by his love for music, painting and architecture."
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