PERSONAL: Born in Kenya; immigrated to England. Education: Attended Magdalen College, Oxford.
ADDRESSES: Home—England. Agent—Anthony Jones, PFD, Drury House, 34-43 Russell Street, London, WC2B 5HA.
CAREER: Screenwriter and motion picture director. BBC-TV, researcher for documentary department; researcher, writer, and director for television series Creative Persons. Screenwriter, 1971—; motion picture director, 1991—. Director of the films Afraid of the Dark (1991; also known as Double Vue) and Victory (1995). Served as a script consultant for The Triumph of Love (2001), written and directed by Clare Peploe.
AWARDS, HONORS: Academy Award for screenplay based on material from another medium, and Golden Globe for best screenplay, both with Bernardo Bertolucci, both 1987, both for The Last Emperor.
(With Andrew Birken and Jacques Demy) The Pied Piper of Hamlin, 1972.
(With Peter Wollen and Michelangelo Antonioni) The Passenger (also known as Profession: Reporter), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists, 1975.
(With Bernardo Bertolucci) The Last Emperor, Columbia, 1987.
(With sister, Clare Peploe) High Season, Hemdale, 1988.
(With Bernardo Bertolucci) The Sheltering Sky (based on a novel by Paul Bowles), Warner Bros., 1990.
(With Frederick Seidel; and director) Afraid of the Dark (also known as Double Vue), Fine Line Features/New Line Cinema, 1992.
(With Bernardo Bertolucci and Rudy Wurlitzer) Little Buddha, Miramax, 1994.
(And director) Victory (based on a novel by Joseph Conrad), Miramax, 1995.
Also coauthor of psychological thriller screenplay La Baby-Sitter (1975; also known as La Jeune fille libre le soir, The Babysitter, and Wanted: Babysitter) with Luciano Vincenzoni, Nicola Badalucco, and Rene Clement. Also coauthor of screenplay Out of the Blue with Gary Jules Jouvenat, Leonard Yakir, and Brenda Nielson. Also author and director of the short film Samson & Delilah. Also worked on screenplay Heaven and Hell (RPC/Jermey Thomas) with Bernardo Bertolucci, based on a biography by Giovanni Ludica.
SIDELIGHTS: Mark Peploe has been writing screenplays since the early 1970s. He has collaborated on screenplays with others, including Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci and Clare Peploe, his sister. In the early 1990s, Peploe turned to directing in addition to screenwriting. He and Bertolucci were awarded the 1987 Academy Award for their screenplay The Last Emperor.
Peploe's first produced screenplay, an adaptation of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale and the poem by Robert Browning, The Pied Piper of Hamlin, was written with Andrew Birkin and Jacques Demy, who also directed the film. Set in the Middle Ages, The Pied Piper of Hamlin opens on bubonic plague-ridden and ratinfested England. Donovan stars in the role of the pied piper, who ultimately entrances the rats—and the children of Hamlin—with his flute. The rats march into the river and drown, while the children of Hamlin follow the pied piper wherever he leads them. Peploe next wrote the screenplay The Passenger (1975) with Peter Wollen and Michelangelo Antonioni, who also directed the film. Jack Nicholson starred with Maria Schneider as television reporter David Locke, who is sent to Africa to write about African guerilla freedom fighters. Upon returning to his hotel room after one day's exhausting desert excursion, he discovers that the hotel patron in the next room has died. Unhappy with his own life, Locke switches identities with the dead man, whom he resembles, and leaves Africa with the deceased's appointment book in the hope that he will discover a more interesting life. In the same year, Peploe was also one of four writers to collaborate on a film titled The Babysitter.
The Last Emperor, Peploe's next screenwriting project and the first of many collaborations with Bertolucci, won Academy Awards in several categories, including best picture and best screenplay. The Last Emperor tells the true story—in flashbacks—of the life of Pu Yi, a boy who in 1908, at age three, was installed in China's Forbidden City and elevated to the status of emperor. He was honored as a god, the Lord of Ten Thousand Years, and was titular ruler of one-third of all people on Earth. Pu Yi became the last emperor in 1912, when the Ch'ing dynasty's 268-year reign was ended by the establishment of a republic. Pu Yi remained in the Forbidden City until he was exiled to a coastal city, from there becoming Japan's puppet emperor of Manchuria from the 1930s through 1945. Pu Yi spent the last half of the 1940s in Soviet custody, followed by ten years in prisons in China, where he was "re-educated." From 1959 until his death in 1967, the "last emperor" worked as a gardener in Peking's Botanical Gardens.
In 1988, Peploe wrote a screenplay with his sister Clare, who was also the film's director, titled High Season. The story is set on the Greek island of Rhodes, the location of the 120-foot-high statue known as the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, which was constructed during the third century B.C. The film's concern is a sculpture dedicated to the Unknown Tourist—the brainchild of a shopkeeper's son who also wants to turn the ancient family store into a T-shirt shop. The shopkeeper, however, wants nothing to do with tourists. The Peploes' characters in this film include a well-known British photographer (played by Jacqueline Bisset) who lives on the island, a visiting sculptor who turns out to be the photographer's ex-husband, an art expert from England who turns out to be a spy for the Soviets, and a young and confused British couple. Roger Ebert, reviewing the work for the Chicago Sun-Times, called the film "a light-footed social satire," stating, "The ingeniousness with which [the Peploes] weave their tangled plot created real questions in my mind, which were resolved in one of those deeply satisfying endings in which everything has an answer and yet nobody turns out to have been blameless." Ebert concluded his review by calling High Season "an example of a rare species: the intelligent silly movie." On the Apollo Movie Guide Web site, reviewer Kurt Dahlke determined that "High Season has so much going on for it that it breaks the mould for romantic summer comedies," pointing out, "Even if you don't like [romantic summer comedies], you'll enjoy this one."
Released in 1990, The Sheltering Sky is based on Paul Bowles's 1949 novel about a troubled American couple who travels to North Africa in an effort to rekindle the romance of their dull marriage. Kit and Port Moresby, played by John Malkovich and Debra Winger, soon find themselves in the confines of a love triangle as steamy and taxing as the African desert itself, each seeking personal shelter from life and one another. Peploe wrote the script with Bertolucci, who directed the film. Peploe again collaborated with Bertolucci to create Little Buddha, also written with Rudy Wurlitzer and starring Keanu Reeves, Bridget Fonda, and Chris Isaak. Little Buddha tells the story of a Seattle boy taken voluntarily to Bhutan by Tibetan Buddhist monks who think he might be the reincarnation of an important lama named Dorje. The boy (and two others, also candidates for the reincarnation role) are given a book about the youth of Prince Siddhartha, whose life is interwoven within the contemporary story. Little Buddha received less than favorable reviews. In the National Review John Simon called the movie "a pure abomination" and "a crashing bore." Stanley Kauffmann in the New Republic deemed the screenplay "flaccid" and pointed out that although it was based on true stories, he felt "art needs to be better managed than life."
In 1991, Peploe turned his cinematic efforts toward both screenwriting and directing with the horror movie Afraid of the Dark, written with Frederick Seidel. A psychological thriller, the story involves a young boy's visions of a razor slasher who attacks blind women in his neighborhood. The visions turn out to be the child's fears of his own impending blindness and of the surgery necessary to prevent it. Peploe's second screen-writing and directing venture was 1995's Victory, which he based on a novel by Joseph Conrad. The story is set in 1913 in the Dutch East Indies, in a hotel owned by an anti-Semitic German. The owner of an all-woman orchestra that plays there nightly tries to "sell" one of the women to the hotel owner. When she escapes with a local resident to a remote island, the hotel owner has them pursued by three bandits under the pretext that fortune awaits them on the island.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Writers Directory, 19th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2003.
Chicago Sun-Times, June 24, 1988.
Maclean's, December 14, 1987, p. 66.
National Review, June 27, 1994, John Simon, review of Little Buddha, pp. 59-60.
New Republic, December 14, 1987, pp. 22-23; June 13, 1994, Stanley Kauffmann, review of Little Buddha, p. 32.
New Yorker, November 30, 1987, pp. 98-101; August 24, 1992, pp. 77-79.
People, December 17, 1987, p. 12; August 3, 1992, pp. 10-11.
Playboy, February, 1991, p. 16; August, 1992, p. 18.
Rolling Stone, January 10, 1991, p. 58.
Time, November 23, 1987, p. 100.
Variety, December 13, 1993, p. 37.
Washington Post, June 24, 1988.
Apollo Movie Guide's Review,http://apolloguide.com/ (1987), Kurt Dahlke, review of High Season.
Chicago Sun-Times Web site,http://www.suntimes.com/ (February 27, 2004), Roger Ebert, review of High Season.
Golden Globes Web site,http://www.thegoldenglobes.com/ (June 2, 2003), "Mark Peploe."
Internet Movie Database Web site,http://www.us.imdb.com/ (February 27, 2004), "Mark Peploe."
Microsoft Network Entertainment Web site,http://entertainment.msn.com/ (June 2, 2003), "Mark Peploe."
PFD Agency Web site,http://www.pfd.co.uk/ (February 27, 2004), "Mark Peploe (Writer)."*