Tributes have been paid to the prolific Oscar-winning Jewish playwright Sir Ronald Harwood after he died at home in Sussex of natural causes on Tuesday aged 85.
Born in South African and best known for ‘The Dresser’ and ‘ Quartet’, both of which were made into films, Harwood was regarded as one of Britain’s best post-war dramatists, winning an Academy Award for his script for Roman Polanski’s 2002 film ‘The Pianist’, set in the Warsaw Ghetto.
In 2008 he won a BAFTA for best adapted screenplay for ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’. Two years later he was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, and received the National Jewish Theatre Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.
Unlike his cousin Sir Antony Sher, Harwood knew early on that his talents lay off-stage, and the typewriter his father-in-law bought him as a Christmas gift in 1959 launched his writing career.
Throughout the years he wrote 20 performed works and explored themes such as antisemitism and the Holocaust, such as in ‘Taking Sides’, a play based on the post-war interrogation of Nazi composer Wilhelm Furtwängler.
Writer and comedian Gyles Brandreth said Harwood was “a great man, full of heart, humanity, wit and high intelligence… He did so much over so many years, and was such fun”.