Playwright Sir Tom Stoppard was born Tomás Straüssler on 3 July 1937 in Zlín, Czechoslovakia.
He grew up in Singapore and India during the Second World War and moved to England in 1946 with his mother and stepfather, his own father having been killed in Singapore. Educated at schools in Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire, he became a journalist working for the Western Daily Press (1954-8) and the Bristol Evening World (1958-60), and became theatre critic for Scene magazine in London (1962-3). He began writing plays for radio and television, including The Dissolution of Dominic Boot (1964), A Walk on the Water, televised in 1963, and The Stand-Ins, later revised as The Real Inspector Hound (1968). Albert’s Bridge (1968) was first broadcast by BBC Radio in 1967.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1967) premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1966. The play came to the attention of Kenneth Tynan, then working for the National Theatre, and it was produced at the National in 1967 and on Broadway in 1967, winning a Tony Award for Best Play (USA) in 1968. The Real Inspector Hound was first staged in 1968, followed by productions of Albert’s Bridge and If You’re Glad I’ll Be Frank, both in 1969.
His play Jumpers (1972) was staged at the National Theatre in 1972 and his adaptation of Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba was first performed in the same year. Travesties (1975) was first staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1974, transferring to New York in 1975 where it won a Tony Award for Best Play. Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1976), was inspired by his friendship with Viktor Fainberg, who had been imprisoned in Czechoslovakia by the Soviets, and Stoppard began to speak out on behalf of dissidents including the Czech playwright Vaclav Havel, who had been charged with subversion. Professional Foul (1978) was written for Amnesty International’s Prisoner of Conscience Year in 1977.
On the Razzle, adapted from Johann Nestroy’s Einen Jux will er sich machen, was staged at the National Theatre in 1981, followed by The Real Thing in 1982. He was on the board of the National Theatre from 1989-2003. His trilogy of plays set in 19th century Russia, The Coast of Utopia (2002), was first staged at the National Theatre in 2002.
Tom Stoppard was knighted in 1997. He lives in London. His latest plays include Heroes (2005), Rock ‘n’ Roll (2006) and The Hard Problem (2015). He has written the screenplays for adaptations of Anna Karenina (2012) and Tulip Fever (2014), and co-wrote the screenplay for Shakespeare in Love (1998).