Hutchinson, Ron 1947(?)-
HUTCHINSON, Ron 1947(?)-
PERSONAL: Born c. 1947, in Lisburn, County Antrim, Northern Ireland; married; wife's name Alisa; children: Isabella. Religion: Protestant.
ADDRESSES: Home—Los Angeles, CA. Agent—c/o Judy Daish Associates, 2 St. Charles Place, London W10 6EG, England.
CAREER: Playwright and screenwriter. Worked at a number of jobs including bookseller, carpet salesman, fish gutter, and scene shifter; Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Labour, clerk; Department of Health and Social Security, Coventry, England, social worker and claims investigator; Royal Shakespeare Company, London, England, resident writer, 1978-79.
AWARDS, HONORS: George Devine Award, 1978; John Whiting Award, 1984; Emmy Award, 1989, for the miniseries Murderers Among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story; CableAce Award, 1989.
Says I, Says He (produced in Sheffield, England, 1977; produced in London, England, 1978; produced in New York, NY, 1979), Proscenium Press (Newark, DE), 1980.
Eejits, produced in London, England, 1978.
Jews/Arabs, produced in London, England, 1978.
Anchorman, produced in London, England, 1979.
(Adapter) Christmas of a Nobody (adapted from Diary of a Nobody), produced in London, England, 1979.
The Irish Play, produced in London, England, 1980.
Into Europe, produced in London, England, 1981.
Risky City, produced in Coventry, England, 1981.
(Adapter) The Dillen (adapted from a work by Angela Hewins), produced in Stratford-on-Avon, England, 1983.
Rat in the Skull (produced in London, England, 1984; produced in New York, NY, 1985), Methuen (London, England), 1984.
(With Angela Hewins) Mary, after the Queen, produced in Stratford-on-Avon, England, 1985.
(Adapter) Curse of the Baskervilles (adapted from a story by Arthur Conan Doyle), produced in Plymouth, England, 1987.
Pygmies in the Ruins, produced in Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1991, produced in London, England, 1992.
(Adapter) Flight (adapted from the play by Mikhail Bulgakov; produced at Olivier Theatre, London, England, 1998), Nick Hern Books (London, England), 1998.
Burning Issues (two-act; produced in London, England, 2002), Faber and Faber (London, England), 2000.
Beau Brummell, (produced in Brighton, England, 2001), Oberon (London, England, 2001.
Lags, produced in Edinburgh, Scotland, 2002.
Moonlight and Magnolias, produced at Goodman Theater, Chicago, IL, 2004.
Head Case, produced in Stratford-on-Avon, England, 2005.
Also author of radio plays, including Roaring Boys, 1977; Murphy Unchained, 1978; There Must Be a Door, 1979; Motorcade, 1980; Risky City, 1981; Troupers, 1988; and Larkin, 1988.
Bull Week (miniseries), British Broadcasting Corporation, 1980.
Bird of Prey, British Broadcasting Corporation, 1982.
Bird of Prey 2, British Broadcasting Corporation, 1984.
Connie (series; also see below), Independent Television, 1985.
"Window, Sir?," Unnatural Causes, Independent Television, 1986.
(With others) Murderers among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story, Citadel Entertainment, 1989.
(With Terry Curtis Fox) Perfect Witness, Home Box Office, 1989.
Red King, White Knight, Home Box Office, 1989.
(With Michael Zagor) The Josephine Baker Story, Home Box Office, 1991.
Prisoner of Honor, Home Box Office, 1991.
Blue Ice, Home Box Office, 1992.
Against the Wall, Home Box Office, 1994.
(With others) The Burning Season, Home Box Office, 1994.
(With Stanley Weiser) Fatherland, Home Box Office, 1994.
(With others) The Tuskegee Airmen, Home Box Office, 1995.
Slave of Dreams, Showtime Entertainment, 1995.
(And executive producer) Traffıc (miniseries), USA Network, 2004.
Also author of Twelve off the Belt, 1977; Deasy Desperate, 1979; The Last Window Cleaner, 1979; The Out of Town Boys, 1979; The Winkler, 1979; The Marksman (miniseries), 1987; and Dead Man Out, 1989.
(With Richard Stanley) The Island of Dr. Moreau
(screenplay), New Line Cinema, 1996.
Connie (novelization of the television series of the same title), Severn House (London, England), 1985.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Currently working on the script for an unauthorized biography of Oprah Winfrey for the National Broadcasting Company.
SIDELIGHTS: British dramatist Ron Hutchinson has built a diverse writing career that includes work for radio, stage, and screen. Born near Lisburn in Northern Ireland and raised in Coventry, Warwickshire, England, Hutchinson supported himself through a variety of odd jobs during his early years as a writer. In the late 1970s, his plays began to be produced, and in 1978 he was made a resident writer for the Royal Shakespeare Company, then based in London. From there he was able to make the leap to writing for television and film, and he eventually moved to Los Angeles in 1988.
Much of Hutchinson's early writing reflects his Irish background. He addresses the experiences of Irish characters away from their homeland as well as those embroiled in the political turmoil of the country, yet he manages to strike a balance that enables him to connect with audiences regardless of their background, tapping into universal themes. Hutchinson admits to an early awareness of the situation in Ireland, telling Chicago Sun-Times contributor Hedy Weiss that "even as a child I was conscious that there was something in the landscape which was brooding. . . . There was a cliff we walked along that had been the scene of a massacre; there was a house . . . which had remained abandoned for forty years because Catholics had once lived in it." He went on to refer to writing plays as an exorcism, noting, "I think theater along with tea and violence are Ireland's three national addictions. . . . I don't really know what led me to this compulsive writing of dialogue; all I know is that I find it difficult to stop doing it."
Hutchinson's play Rat in the Skull depicts the interrogation of an Irish Republican Army militant, arrested when a load of explosives is found beneath his bed by a Protestant policeman. During questioning, the policeman slowly begins to understand the futility of the longstanding feud between the groups dividing Northern Ireland as he grows to know the suspect. Don McLeese, in a review for the Chicago Sun-Times, noted that "the 'rat in the skull' of Hutchinson's title is the suspicion that whatever one devotes himself to blindly might result in the waste of a life. His play suggests that one cannot escape history . . . but that one needn't be trapped by it." Reviewing the work for the Irish Voice, Frank Shouldice wrote that "the writing is tight, forceful, provocative and the message uncompromising. Neither are there any happy endings—if the outlook appears bleak, you can put that down to the play's realism."
Other works that rely heavily on Hutchinson's Irish identity are Says I, Says He, the tale of two boys from Ulster who lead very different lives and nearly escape the violence of Northern Ireland before being gunned down; Risky City, which depicts through a series of deathbed flashbacks the way in which a Coventry-Irish boy misspent his youth; and Eejits, the story of a four-member London-based musical band that cannot escape the divisive nature of their Irish background. Pygmies in the Ruins explores the history of Belfast, using time travel to connect nineteenth-century characters involved in an unsolved murder with their twentieth-century counterparts. In a Chicago Sun-Times review, Weiss commented, "Hutchinson does not take an entirely hopeful view of the situation in Northern Ireland, but his slightly surreal play at least attempts to get to the roots of the struggle. And the man can write!"
While staging Rat in the Skull in Chicago, Hutchinson was given the opportunity to break into writing for Hollywood. Actor Brian Dennehy, who was cast in the role of the policeman, showed Hutchinson's work to his agent, a contact that led to Hutchinson selling a four-page treatment to director and producer Michael Mann. "I earned more money for it than all my plays put together," Hutchinson told Betty Mohr, in an interview with Script. He went on to write a number of television scripts, including The Burning Season, which recounts the story of Chico Mendes, whose struggle to improve conditions for struggling workers in Brazil ended when he was murdered in 1988;Against the Wall, a recounting of the 1971 inmate rebellion at Attica Prison; and The Josephine Baker Story. He also cowrote the screenplay for the 1996 film remake of The Island of Dr. Moreau.
Working in Hollywood has not stopped Hutchinson from continuing to write plays. He explained to Mohr, "I write screenplays because producers want to pay me lots of money to do so, and I write plays because I get inspired by an idea. A lot of budding screenwriters have the mistaken notion that you write a movie because of a passionate desire. That's not really how it is. As a screenwriter, you're really a hired gun."
Hutchinson has also shifted his focus away from Ireland in his more recent works, which include Flight, adapted from Mikhail Bulgakov's play, and Moonlight and Magnolias, which recounts the behind-the-scenes drama during the filming of Gone with the Wind. Weiss, reviewing Moonlight and Magnolias for the Chicago Sun-Times, called it "a Hollywood dream-factory farce wired to a surprisingly ferocious explosive device," going on to say of Hutchinson, "he has a gift for enveloping you in blackness. And then, with a single line or gesture, he can lift the heavy cloud and get on with the hilarity."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Dramatists, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Chicago Sun-Times, September 8, 1985, Hedy Weiss, "Hutchinson's War of Words: Playwright Reveals the Workings of an Irishman's 'Skull,'" p. 6; September 13, 1985, Don McLeese, "A Revolution of Passion 'Rat in the Skull' Reveals What Happens when Irish Eyes Aren't Smiling," p. 37; March 8, 1992, Weiss, "A Whirlwind Theater Tour: So Many Shows in So Little Time," p. 3; May 20, 2004, Weiss, "Playwright Moolings with Hollywood Scarlett," p. 45; May 27, 2004, Weiss, "Frankly, My Dear, The Real Story of 'GWTW' Was Offstage," p. 49.
Chicago Tribune, May 14, 2004, Chris Jones, "Hollywood Rewrite Guy Pens Shows of His Own," p. 3.
Daily Herald Correspondent (Arlington Heights, IL), May 28, 2004, Jack Helbig, "Behind the Movie: 'Moonlight' Gives Excellent Fictionalized Account of the Making of 'Gone with the Wind,'" p. 28.
Entertainment Weekly, March 25, 1994, review of Against the Wall, p. 44; September 16, 1994, Ken Tucker, review of The Burning Season, p. 98.
Guardian (Manchester, England), January 8, 1997, Chris Arnot, "Whoring for Hollywood: Ron Hutchinson Is One of the Greats of British Theatre, Yet for the Past Decade He's Been Turning Tricks in Tinsletown," p. T14; October 26, 2001, Michael Billington, "Acting behind Bars in Bristol: Lags," p. 20; June 23, 2004, Michael Billington, "New York's Stages Are in a Slump: Now All America's Liveliest Drama Is in Chicago," p. 12.
Irish Voice, November 5, 1991, Frank Shouldice, "The Scars of History," p. 35.
Nation, May 16, 1994, Lewis Cole, review of Against the Wall, p. 678.
New Statesman and Society, March 6, 1992, Andy Lavender, "Aesthetics of Extinction," review of Pygmies in the Ruins, pp. 39-40.
People, September 9, 1996, Ralph Novak, review of The Island of Dr. Moreau, p. 17.
Spectator, October 21, 1995, Sheridan Morley, "The Agony of Living Apart," review of Rat in the Skull, pp. 59-60; April 21, 2001, Morley, review of Beau Brummell, p. 50; April 5, 2003, Lloyd Evans, "Sound and Fury," review of Lags, p. 49.
Variety, May 15, 2000, Matt Wolf, review of Burning Issues, p. 38; June 14, 2004, Chris Jones, "Farce Takes Breezy Look at 'Wind,'" p. 45.
Albemarle-London Web site,http://www.albemarle-london.com/ (September 27, 2004), "Flight."
Doollee.com,http://www.doollee.com/ (September 27, 2004), "Ron Hutchinson."
New York Theatre Guide Online,http://www.newyorktheatreguide.com/ (September 27, 2004), "Ron Hutchinson."
Royal Shakespeare Company Web site,http://www.rsc.org.uk/ (September 27, 2004), "Head Case."
Script Online,http://www.scriptmag.com/ (September 27, 2004), Betty Mohr, interview with Hutchinson.*