David Williamson

Mark Lee and Mel Gibson in Gallipoli, screenplay by David Williamson, story by Peter Weir. Photo courtesy of Screen Australia.

David Williamson is amongst Australia’s most ground-breaking dramatists and screenwriters – known for topical satiric comedies that display his flair for naturalism and local vernacular. He explored the psychology of social interaction, focusing on the social and cultural attitudes of the Australian middle class.

David’s first full-length play, The Coming of Stork, premiered at the La Mama Theatre, Carlton, in 1970 and later became the film Stork, directed by Tim Burstall.

The Removalists and Don’s Party followed in 1971, then Jugglers Three (1972), What If You Died Tomorrow? (1973), The Department (1975), A Handful of Friends (1976), The Club (1977) and Travelling North (1979). In 1972 The Removalists won the Australian Writers’ Guild AWGIE Award for best stage play and the best script in any medium and the British production saw Williamson nominated most promising playwright by the London Evening Standard, and the play was a co winner of the coveted George Devine Award, the first time it had been given to a non U.K. writer.

The 1980s saw his success continue with Celluloid Heroes (1980), The Perfectionist (1982), Sons of Cain (1985), Emerald City (1987) and Top Silk (1989); whilst the 1990s produced Siren (1990), Money and Friends (1991), Brilliant Lies (1993), Sanctuary (1994), Dead White Males (1995), Heretic (1996), Third World Blues (an adaptation of Jugglers Three) and After the Ball (both in 1997), and Corporate Vibes and Face to Face (both in 1999). The Great Man (2000), Up for Grabs, A Conversation, Charitable Intent (all in 2001), Soulmates (2002), Birthrights (2003), Amigos (2004), Operator (2005) Influence (2006), Scarlett O’Hara at the Crimson Parrot, (2008), Let the Sunshine(2009),  Rhinestone Rex and Miss Monica (2010),  Don Parties On, (2011),  At Any Cost (Co written with Mohamed Kahdra, 2011)  and Nothing Personal (2011),  When Dad Married Fury (2012) and Managing Carmen (2012), and TRS theatre company produced a critically acclaimed revival of The Removalists.  In 2013 The Melbourne Theatre Company produced Rupert, about our most famous media proprietor, and this highly successful production travelled to the Kennedy Centre in Washington.

In the same year the Ensemble Theatre in Sydney produced  Happiness.  In 2014 the Sydney Theatre Company staged a successful revival of Travelling North, starring Bryan Brown, and the Ensemble produced  Cruise Control, one of its most successful productions ever, directed by the Playwright himself, and revived all three of the Jack Manning Trilogy, and the Griffin Theatre Company staged a revival of  Emerald City. In 2015 Williamson directed his latest play Dream Home for the Ensemble Theatre which broke box office records.  In 2106 his play Jack of Hearts at the Ensemble Theatre again broke box office records as did his 2017 play Odd Man Out. His 2018 play Sorting out Rachel at the Ensemble, starring John Howard repeated the box office and critical success of the previous three.   

Williamson is widely recognised as Australia’s most successful playwright and over the last forty-five years his plays have been performed throughout Australia and produced in Britain, United States, Canada and many European and Asian countries. His play Travelling North had a successful production in Vietnam and The Club ran for a year in Beijing, where its depiction of back room committee politicking obviously struck a chord with the locals.

A number of his stage works have been adapted for the screen, including The Removalists, Don’s Party, The Club. Travelling North. Emerald City, Sanctuary  and Brilliant Lies, and six of them have been made into quality Telemovies in Poland.

David Williamson has won the Australian Film Institute film script award five times, for Petersen (1974), Don’s Party (1976), Gallipoli (1981) Travelling North ( 1987) and Balibo (2009) and has won twelve Australian Writers’ Guild AWGIE Awards. He also wrote the screenplay for Pharlap (1981) , The Year of Living Dangerously, (1983) receiving a nomination for best screenplay from the Writer’s Guild of America. He wrote the screenplay for Showtime’s On the Beach which won the Australian AFI award for best miniseries and was nominated for the Golden Globe awards in the U.S. He also wrote the screenplay for the HBO miniseries A Dangerous Life, about the fall of the Marcos regime in the Philippines which made the critics top ten list of the year in both New York and Los Angeles.

Altogether he has written twelve screenplays and five miniseries, including The Four Minute Mile for the BBC and The Last Bastion about General McArthur’s arrival in Australia in WW 11, which was sold all over the world.

He is currently working on a four part television series based on his play Rupert, and working on a feature movie for the U.S. production company Echo Lake.  

In 1983 he became an Officer of the Order of Australia. (A.O)

In 1994 he was named Emeritus President of the Australian Writers’ Guild.

He has been awarded four honorary doctorates from the Universities of Sydney, Monash, Swinburne and Brisbane.

In 1997 the National Trust named him one of our National Living Treasures.

In 2005 he was awarded the J.C. Williamson Lifetime Achievement Award at the Annual Helpmann Awards, and became inducted as a National Living Treasure.

In 2011 he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Sydney Critics Circle.

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David Williamson