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Lee Hall (playwright)

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Lee Hall (born 20 September 1966) is an English writer and lyricist. He is best known for writing the screenplay for the film (2000) and the book and lyrics for its adaptation as a stage musical of the same name. In addition, he wrote the play The Pitmen Painters (2007), and the screenplays for the films War Horse and Rocketman (2019).

Early life
Hall was born in 1966 in Newcastle upon Tyne, the son of a house painter and decorator and a housewife. He was educated at in . As a youth he went to Wallsend Young People's Theatre along with Deka Walmsley, Mark Scott and Trevor Fox. Walmsley later appeared in two of Hall’s works, Billy Elliot and The Pitmen Painters.

Hall attended Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, where he studied English literature and was taught by poet . Profile "The poet at play", The Guardian, 12 May 2001, Accessed 2013-10-16

After leaving Cambridge, he first worked as a youth theatre fundraiser in Newcastle and at the Gate Theatre in London. In 1997, his playwriting career was launched with the broadcast of his radio play, Spoonface Steinberg, on BBC Radio 4.

Hall's most commercially successful work is , the story of a North Eastern English boy who, in the face of opposition from his family and community, aspires to be a ballet dancer. The inspiration for the screenplay was drawn, in part, from the A. J. Cronin novel The Stars Look Down, which is also set in an English coal mining community during a , and similarly tells the story of a miner's son who goes against the grain. The character Billy was also partly inspired by the renowned Sir Thomas Allen who came from a similar background, having been born in the North East's . Initially a 2000 film directed by , for which Hall wrote the screenplay, and for which he received an nomination, Billy Elliot was later turned into a stage musical, with music by and lyrics by Hall. It enjoyed a long run in the West End and opened on Broadway in 2008. It won Hall the 2009 for Best Book of a Musical.

Also successful was Spoonface Steinberg, the tale of a young autistic Jewish girl who is dying of cancer. The last in a quartet of entitled God's Country, the monologue aroused an unprecedented listener response when it was broadcast in 1997 on . It was subsequently voted one of the ten best radio dramas of all time by readers of the magazine . Spoonface Steinberg was adapted as a television play and into a one woman show starring 42-year-old actress . The play opened in 1999 and later transferred to the West End.

Hall had more limited success with his comedy Cooking with Elvis, the protagonist of which is an Elvis Presley impersonator who has been paralyzed in a car crash. It was originally a 1995 radio play but it became a stage play in 1999. Hall's fondness for moving from one medium to another can also be seen in his work I Luv You Jimmy Spud, which began as a 1995 radio play and was later adapted by Hall into a stage play and a film, Gabriel and Me, starring and .

He has also translated plays by , and Herman Heijermans and co-written the screenplays for adaptations of 's Pride & Prejudice and 's The Wind in the Willows.

Hall's play, The Pitmen Painters, inspired by art critic 's book on the , premiered at the refurbished Live Theatre in Newcastle upon Tyne in 2007. It tells of a group of miners from Ashington, , who decide to learn about art and begin to paint. The production later transferred to the National Theatre in London and opened on Broadway in September 2010. It won the 2008 Evening Standard Award for Best Play.

In 2011, controversy arose over a children's opera that Hall had written, called Beached. The opera was commissioned by and was to have been performed by children from Bay Primary School in , East Riding of Yorkshire. The story is about a gay retired painter, a single father who tries to spend a quiet day at the seaside with his son, but who is interrupted by children on a school trip, dogs, a landscape painter, an amateur dramatic society and others. After rehearsals had been going on for six months, the school threatened to pull the children out of the production if changes were not made to the libretto. Hall changed some words to accommodate their requests, but school officials, supported by Opera North, insisted on the removal of the words "I'm queer" and "I prefer a lad to a lass," and other references to the character being gay. The school eventually agreed to let the children perform if Hall changed "queer" to "gay."

Hall was the original writer on the screenplay for a film adaptation of 's War Horse; he shares credit on the finished film with , who was brought in by . His most recent TV work is an adaptation of 's Autobiography Toast, starring Helena Bonham Carter and and set in , West Midlands. First broadcast on in December 2010, Toast received a gala at the 2011 Berlin Film Festival and was released in cinemas on 11 August 2011. He also worked on the screenplay for the yet-to-released Working Title film Hippie Hippie Shake, based on Richard Neville's memoir Hippie Hippie Shake: The Dreams, the Trips, the Trials, the Love-ins, the Screw Ups: The Sixties.

Hall's other projects include a of , Rocketman, released in May 2019, a stage musical adaptation of 's , and a film adaptation of 's 1933 memoir Down and Out in Paris and London.

Personal life
Hall married film director (Baroness Kidron) in 2003. Kidron is a child rights advocate who has played a determinative role in establishing standards for online safety and privacy across the world.

  • I Luv You Jimmy Spud (1995)
  • The Love Letters of Ragie Patel (1997)
  • The Sorrows of Sandra Saint (1997)
  • Spoonface Steinberg (1997)
  • Cooking with Elvis (1999)
  • NE1 (2000)
  • The Chain Play (2001)
  • Child of the Snow (2005)
  • Two's Company (2005)
  • The Pitmen Painters (2007)
  • Shakespeare in Love (2014)
  • Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (2015)
  • Network (2017)

  • (2000)
  • Gabriel and Me (2001)
  • The Wind in the Willows (2006)
  • Toast (2010)
  • War Horse (2011)
  • Victoria & Abdul (2017)
  • Rocketman (2019)
  • Cats (2019)

  • Billy Elliot the Musical (2005)
  • Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical (2021)

  • Beached (2011)


Awards and nominations
  • 1999 Pearson Playwrights' Scheme Award
  • 2000 British Independent Film Award, Best Screenplay: Billy Elliot
  • 2006 Laurence Olivier Award, Best New Musical: Billy Elliot the Musical
  • 2008 Evening Standard Award, Best Play: The Pitmen Painters
  • 2009 Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Book of a Musical: Billy Elliot the Musical
  • 2009 , Best Book of a Musical: Billy Elliot the Musical
  • 2009 Drama League Award, Distinguished Production of a Musical: Billy Elliot the Musical (shared with )
  • 2009 Outer Critics Circle Award, Outstanding New Score: Billy Elliot the Musical (shared with Elton John)
  • 2017 Laurence Olivier Award, Best New Comedy: Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour
  • 2020 Golden Raspberry Award, Worst Screenplay; Cats

  • 2001 , Best Original Screenplay: Billy Elliot
  • 2001 , Best Original Screenplay: Billy Elliot
  • 2009 , Best Original Score: Billy Elliot the Musical (shared with Elton John)
  • 2011 , Best Adapted Screenplay: War Horse (shared with )
  • 2018 Laurence Olivier Award, Best New Play: Network
  • 2018 , Best Adapted Screenplay: Victoria & Abdul

External links

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