Joe Penhall at the 2009 Venice Film Festival for the promotion of The Road
Born in London, Penhall was raised in Adelaide, Australia.
Penhall's first major play Some Voices premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1994. It was very well-received, winning the John Whiting Award, and has since been played on Broadway twice. In 2000 Penhall adapted the play for a film with the same name directed by Simon Cellan Jones, starring Daniel Craig and Kelly Macdonald, which premiered at the Cannes Directors' Fortnight.
Penhall adapted Ian McEwan's novel Enduring Love in 2004 to film starring Rhys Ifans and Daniel Craig. That same year he also wrote the screenplay for BBC2's BAFTA nominated dramatisation of Jake Arnott's novel The Long Firm starring Mark Strong.
In 2000 his play Blue/Orange began its run at the National Theatre, directed by Roger Michell and starring Bill Nighy, Andrew Lincoln and Chiwetel Ejiofor. The play centers on two NHS doctors trying to deal with a sectioned young black schizophrenic patient; it was a huge success, winning Best New Play at the Evening Standard Awards, Laurence Olivier Awards, and at the Critics Circle. It transferred to the West End at the Duchess Theatre the following year. Penhall adapted this play in 2005 for TV with a new cast.
That same year Penhall wrote and directed The Undertaker, his first short film, starring Rhys Ifans and premiering at the London Film Festival.
His follow up play Dumb Show was staged at the Royal Court Theatre in 2004, focusing on tabloid journalism. It was directed by Terry Johnson. Penhall has called this a 'small light play' as opposed to the 'huge dark play' Blue/Orange.
Landscape With Weapon, about the invention of a weapon of mass destruction, was first performed at the National Theatre in 2007, directed again by Roger Michell and starring Tom Hollander and Julian Rhind-Tutt.
Penhall spent six years working on The Last King of Scotland, even flying to Uganda and meeting Idi Amin's henchmen; however, he requested his name be removed from the film after other writers were brought on board. Penhall adapted Cormac McCarthy's book The Road in 2009 for a film starring Viggo Mortensen; for this he received wide praiseand was named by Variety Magazine as one of their Top Ten Screenwriters to watch.
In 2011 Penhall returned to the theatre with two plays: Haunted Child, staged at the Royal Court Theatre with Sophie Okonedo, and Birthday, starring Stephen Mangan and directed by long-term collaborator Roger Michell.
- Birthday (2012) premiered at the Royal Court Theatre, directed by Roger Michell 
- Haunted Child (2011) premiered at the Royal Court Theatre, directed by Jeremy Herrin 
- Landscape With Weapon (2007) premiered at the National Theatre, directed Roger Michell
- Dumb Show (2004) premiered at the Royal Court Theatre, directed Terry Johnson 
- Blue/Orange (2000) premiered at the National Theatre, directed by Roger Michell 
- The Bullet (1998) premiered at the Donmar Warehouse, directed by Dominic Cooke 
- Love and Understanding (1997) premiered at the Bush Theatre, directed by Mike Bradwell
- Pale Horse (1995) premiered at the Royal Court Theatre, directed by Ian Rickson
- Some Voices' (1994) premiered at the Royal Court Theatre, directed by Ian Rickson
- Wild Turkey (1993) premiered at the Old Red Lion Theatre
- The Road (2009)
- The Undertaker (2005) short film
- Enduring Love (2004)
- Some Voices (2000)
- Moses Jones (2009) three part BBC drama
- Blue/Orange (2005) TV adaptation of his own play
- The Long Firm (2004) TV series of the novel
- Go Back Out (1995) TV film
- 1994 John Whiting Award for Some Voices
- 2000 Laurence Olivier Award Best New Play for Blue/Orange
- 2000 Evening Standard Theatre Award Best New Play for Blue/Orange
- 2000 Critics' Circle Theatre Awards Best New Play for Blue/Orange
- 2005 BAFTA nominee Best Drama Serial for The Long Firm
- "The Long Firm", BBC, 2004
- Dawtrey, Adam (18 June 2008), "Screenwriters To Watch", Variety
- "Penhall on Moses Jones", The Times (London), 2011
- Lawson, Mark (29 November 2011), "Penhall Interview", The Guardian (London)
- "Birthday", Royal Court Theatre, 2012
- "Haunted Child", Royal Court Theatre, 2011
- "Landscape With Weapon", National Theatre, 2007
- "Dumb Show", Royal Court Theatre, 2004
- "Blue/Orange", National Theatre, 2000
- "The Bullet", Donmar Warehouse, 1998
- "Love and Understanding", Bush Theatre, 1997
- "Pale Horse", Royal Court, 1995
- "Some Voices", Royal Court, 1995
- "The Road", Imdb, 2009
- "The Undertaker", Imdb, 2005
- "Enduring Love", Imdb, 2004
- "Some Voices", Imdb, 2000
- "Moses Jones", Imdb, 2009
- "Blue/Orange", Imdb, 2005
- "The Long Firm", Imdb, 2004
- "Go Back Out", Imdb, 1995
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