Prick Up Your Ears
|Prick Up Your Ears|
Poster for Prick Up Your Ears
|Directed by||Stephen Frears|
|Written by||John Lahr (book)
Alan Bennett (screenplay)
|Distributed by||The Samuel Goldwyn Company|
|Release date(s)||April 17, 1987|
Prick Up Your Ears is a 1987 film, directed by Stephen Frears, about the playwright Joe Orton and his lover Kenneth Halliwell. The screenplay was written by Alan Bennett, based on the book by John Lahr. The film stars Gary Oldman as Orton, Alfred Molina as Halliwell, Wallace Shawn as Lahr and Vanessa Redgrave as Margaret "Peggy" Ramsay.
The film tells the story of Orton and Halliwell in flashback, framed by sequences of Lahr researching the book upon which the film is based with Orton's literary agent, Peggy Ramsay. Orton and Halliwell's relationship is traced from its beginnings at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Orton starts out as the uneducated youth to Halliwell's older faux-sophisticate. As the relationship progresses, however, Orton grows increasingly confident in his talent while Halliwell's writing stagnates. They fall into a parody of a traditional married couple, with Orton as the "husband" and Halliwell as the long-suffering and increasingly ignored "wife" (a situation exacerbated by Orton's unwillingness, in 1960s England, to acknowledge having a male lover). Orton is commissioned to write a screenplay for The Beatles and Halliwell gets carried away in preparing for a meeting with the "Fab Four", but in the end Orton is taken away for a meeting on his own. Finally, a despondent Halliwell kills Orton and commits suicide.
- Gary Oldman - Joe Orton
- Alfred Molina - Kenneth Halliwell
- Vanessa Redgrave - Peggy Ramsay
- Frances Barber - Leonie Orton
- Janet Dale - Mrs. Sugden
- Julie Walters - Elsie Orton
- Bert Parnaby - The Magistrate
- Margaret Tyzack - Madame Lambert
- Lindsay Duncan - Anthea Lahr
- Wallace Shawn - John Lahr
"Prick Up Your Ears" was to be the title of an unreleased play by Orton; Ironically, Halliwell, who had provided many of Orton's titles throughout his successful years, suggested the title. In the title, the word "Ears" is an anagram of the word "Arse" making Prick Up Your Ears a rather blunt reference to the homosexual subject matter. It is also a phonetic play on the conjunction of "your" and "ears" to produce "rears", which also alludes to gay sex.
Prick Up Your Ears received a generally positive critical reaction, with a 100% "fresh" rating at review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert awarded the film four stars out of four, describing Redgrave's performance as "superb", and praising the work of Oldman and Molina: "The great performances in the movie are, of course, at its center. Gary Oldman plays Orton and Alfred Molina plays Halliwell, and these are two of the best performances of the year." On the basis of Oldman's work in the film and the previous year's Sid and Nancy, Ebert described him as "the best young British actor around." Ken Hanke of the Mountain Xpress was less impressed, describing the film as a "good, but never quite great biopic", while still awarding it four stars out of five.
Oldman earned a BAFTA Award nomination for Best Actor; Redgrave received BAFTA- and Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Alan Bennett earned a BAFTA Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film won the award for Best Artistic Contribution at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival.
- Prick Up Your Ears Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes
- Prick Up Your Ears review. Roger Ebert. May 8, 1987. Retrieved March 16, 2011.
- "Festival de Cannes: Prick Up Your Ears". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-07-19.