British playwright and screenwriter Peter Shaffer, who won an Oscar for “Amadeus,” has died at the age of 90. Shaffer’s U.K. agent Rupert Lord said Shaffer died Monday in Ireland after a short illness.
Shaffer wrote more than 18 plays, including “Amadeus,” “Equus,” “Black Comedy,” “Lettice and Lovage,” “The Royal Hunt of the Sun” and “Five Finger Exercise.”
Many of his works were adapted for television or the movies, including his first play, “The Salt Land,” which was written in 1951 and produced for television in 1955. Another early adaptation was “Five Finger Exercise,” which was directed by John Gielgud in London’s West End in 1958, transferred to New York in 1959, and was followed by a film version in 1962.
“Equus,” which is one of his best-known works, was first produced by London’s National Theatre, and later went to Broadway, where it ran for more than 1,200 performances, and won a Tony. It was also made into a film in 1977, directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Richard Burton. The screenplay earned Shaffer an Oscar nomination. The play was revived in the West End in 2007, with “Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe in his first major role in theater, and the production subsequently ran on Broadway.
“Amadeus” opened at the National Theatre in 1979, and on Broadway in 1980, where it ran for more than 1,000 performances and won a Tony, and then transferred to the West End. The 1984 movie won Shaffer one of its eight Academy Awards. “Amadeus” will be revived at the National Theatre in the fall.
“Lettice and Lovage” ran for nearly three years in the West End. In 1990, the play opened on Broadway with Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack both winning Tony awards for their roles.
Shaffer maintained strong links with the National Theatre, for which several of his plays were written and first produced. “The Royal Hunt of the Sun” was the first premiere of a new play ever produced by the National Theatre in 1964.
Rufus Norris, director of the National Theatre, said: “Peter Shaffer was one of the great writers of his generation and the National Theatre was enormously lucky to have had such a fruitful and creative relationship with him. The plays he leaves behind are an enduring legacy.”
Shaffer was awarded a British national honor, Commander of the British Empire, in 1987, and he was knighted in 2001.
He is survived by his brother Brian, nephews Milo and Mark, and nieces Cressida and Claudia, whose father and Peter’s twin, the playwright and screenwriter Anthony Shaffer (“Sleuth”), died in 2001.