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Anthony McCarten

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Anthony McCarten
Anthony McCarten in 2012
Anthony McCarten in 2012
Born (1961-04-28) 28 April 1961 (age 63)[1]
New Plymouth, New Zealand
  • Screenwriter
  • novelist
  • playwright
  • journalist
  • film director
  • film producer
Alma materMassey University
Victoria University of Wellington

Anthony McCarten (born 28 April 1961) is a New Zealand writer and filmmaker. He is best known for writing big-budget biopics The Theory of Everything (2014), Darkest Hour (2017), Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), The Two Popes (2019), and Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody (2022). McCarten has been nominated for four Academy Awards, including twice for Best Adapted Screenplay, for The Theory of Everything and The Two Popes.

Early life[edit]

McCarten was born and raised in New Plymouth, New Zealand,[2] and attended Francis Douglas Memorial College. He worked as a reporter for a couple of years on The Taranaki Herald before studying for an Arts degree at Massey University and Victoria University of Wellington, where he studied creative writing with Bill Manhire. After leaving university, McCarten appeared in a production of King Lear.[2][3]



McCarten is a novelist and author of ten novels. McCarten's novels have been translated into 26 languages. His first novel, Spinners (Picador, 2000), was voted one of the top ten novels of that year by Esquire magazine.[4] McCarten published his second novel, The English Harem, in 2002, which he later adapted for the screen.[4] It was broadcast on ITV in December 2005.[5]

In 2007, he wrote his third novel Death of a Superhero, then adapted the screenplay, executive produced the film, and wrote the book of the stage musical. It won the 2008 Austrian Youth Literature Prize and was a finalist for the 2008 German Youth Literature Prize.[4] His fourth novel, Show Of Hands, was published in Europe, and in the US by Simon and Schuster in 2009. McCarten directed the big screen adaptation and the movie had its world premiere at the Montreal World Film Festival, 2008, and was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director at the New Zealand Film Awards.[6][7][8] The sequel novel to Death of a Superhero, In The Absence Of Heroes, was published in 2012, and was a finalist for the 2013 New Zealand Fiction Prize and was longlisted for the 2014 Dublin International IMPAC Literary Award.[9] In 2013 McCarten published Brilliance, about Thomas Edison, and his friendship with J.P. Morgan.[10] In 2015 he was inducted as a Literary Fellow of the New Zealand Society of Authors.[4][11] Going Zero, his 2023 thriller, was published in 23 languages.

In 2017 McCarten's work of historical non-fiction, Darkest Hour: How Churchill Brought Us Back From The Brink was published, and later was turned into a biopic.[12][13]


Via Satellite, which McCarten adapted from his own stage play, and directed himself, was invited to several film festivals including London, Cannes, Toronto, Melbourne, Hawaii and Seattle. His follow-up feature as writer/director, Show of Hands (2008), premiered at the Montreal International Film Festival and was an official selection for the Shanghai Film Festival 2009.

In 2011, his adaptation of his own novel Death of a Superhero had its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, won the 2011 Les Arcs Film Festival Audience Choice Prize and Young Jury Prize, and the Audience Award and 'Special Mention' of the Jury at the Mamer-en-Mars European Film Festival. It had its US premiere at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

McCarten produced and wrote The Theory of Everything (2014), concerning the life of Prof. Stephen Hawking, and his first wife, Jane Hawking. He first initiated talks with Jane to acquire the rights to her autobiography, Travelling to Infinity, in 2004, and shortly after began work on the screenplay, which took its inspiration from her book. On 15 January 2015, the film received 5 Academy Award nominations, with McCarten earning two as producer and screenwriter in the categories of Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. He won two BAFTA awards for his roles as producer Best British Film and screenwriter Best Adapted Screenplay.

In 2017, McCarten wrote and co-produced a film about Winston Churchill, Darkest Hour. It stars Gary Oldman as Churchill, who has received critical acclaim for his performance. The film received 6 Academy Award nominations, with McCarten earning one as producer in the category of Best Picture. He was also nominated for two BAFTA awards for his role as producer, Best British Film and Best Film.

McCarten wrote Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), the Queen biopic that reached Number 1 at the box office in the US, UK, France, Germany, and all major markets, recording the second biggest opening weekend in history for a musical biography. It became the biggest grossing drama[14] and/or biopic of all time in 2018,[15] winning the 2019 Golden Globe for Best Picture (drama),[16] earning over $900 million at the box office, and was nominated for the 2019 Academy Award for Best Picture.[17]

In 2019, he wrote the script for The Two Popes, the film adaptation of his own stage play, The Pope; the film stars Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict XVI and Jonathan Pryce as Pope Francis, and had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival.

In April 2020, Deadline.com announced McCarten would be writing the screenplay for an upcoming Whitney Houston biopic. He would also serve as producer with Houston's mentor/boss Clive Davis, her estate president and music company Primary Wave. Stella Meghie was set to direct the film, Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody.[18] In September 2021, director Kasi Lemmons was brought on to replace Meghie.[19] Production started shortly afterwards at Marina Studios' soundstages in Quincy, Massachusetts.[20]


McCarten received early international success with his play Ladies Night.[2] McCarten has written the book for A Beautiful Noise, a Broadway musical about Neil Diamond which premiered in New York in December 2022.[21] He is also the author of the plays The Collaboration and The Pope (AKAThe Two Popes) [22]

Personal life[edit]

McCarten divides his time between London, Los Angeles and Munich. He has three children.[citation needed]

Selected works[edit]


Year Title Director Writer Producer
1999 Via Satellite Yes Yes No
2008 Show of Hands Yes Yes No
2011 Death of a Superhero No Yes Executive
2014 The Theory of Everything No Yes Yes
2017 Darkest Hour No Yes Yes
2018 Bohemian Rhapsody No Yes No
2019 The Two Popes No Yes No
2022 Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody No Yes Yes
TBA The Collaboration No Yes Yes


Year Title Notes
1989 Worzel Gummidge Down Under 4 episodes
2005 The English Harem TV movie


Year Title Venue Notes
1984 Invitation to a Second Class Carriage Depot Theatre, Wellington
1987 Yellow Canary Mazurka
1987 Ladies Night Mercury With Stephen Sinclair
1988, 1989 Pigeon English Playwrights' Workshop / Depot
1990 Weed
1991 Via Satellite Wellington Theatre Critics
1992 Hang on a Minute, Mate Downstage
1992 Ladies' Night 2 Mercury With Stephen Sinclair
1995 FILTH (Failed in London, Try Hong Kong) Circa
1996 Four Cities Los Angeles AKA Continental Breakfast
2014 Death of a Superhero book by McCarten, music by Paul Brown
2017 The Pope Royal and Derngate Theatre, Northampton AKA The Two Popes
2018 Wednesday at Warren's, Friday at Bill's
2022 The Collaboration London/Broadway
2022 A Beautiful Noise Boston/Broadway book by McCarten, music by Neil Diamond

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Title Result
2014 Academy Awards Best Picture The Theory of Everything Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
2017 Best Picture Darkest Hour Nominated
2019 Best Adapted Screenplay The Two Popes Nominated
2014 BAFTA Awards Best Film The Theory of Everything Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Won
Outstanding British Film Won
2017 Best Film Darkest Hour Nominated
Outstanding British Film Nominated
2018 Bohemian Rhapsody Nominated
2019 Best Adapted Screenplay The Two Popes Nominated
Outstanding British Film Nominated
2019 Golden Globe Awards Best Screenplay Nominated[23]
2019 Hollywood Film Awards Hollywood Screenwriter Award Won


  • Spinners Random House New Zealand (1999) Harper Perennial (US) (2001)
  • The English Harem Picador (2002), reprinted (film-tie-in) Alma Books (2006)
  • Brilliance (2006) Hawthorne Books (US), Alma Books (UK) Random House (NZ) Diogenes (Germany)
  • Death of a Superhero (2006, 2007) Alma Books
  • Show of Hands (2008) Diogenes (Germ.), Simon and Schuster (US), Random House (NZ)
  • In the Absence of Heroes (2012) Random House (NZ), Diogenes (Germ.)
  • funnygirl (2015) Alma Books (UK), Random House (NZ) Diogenes (Germany)
  • Darkest Hour: How Churchill Brought Us Back from the Brink (2017) Penguin/Viking (UK), HarperCollins (US)
  • The Pope: Francis, Benedict, and the Decision That Shook the World (2019) Flatiron Books (US)
  • Going Zero (2023)


  1. ^ "Anthony McCarten on myCast - Fan Casting Your Favorite Stories". myCast - Fan Casting Your Favorite Stories.
  2. ^ a b c Saltmarsh, Matthew (24 May 2008). "From sex comedy to exiles: Prolific New Zealander's worldwide reach". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  3. ^ "Anthony McCarten profile". Authortrek. Archived from the original on 13 November 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d "Anthony McCarten". Academy of New Zealand Literature. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  5. ^ "English Harem, The (ITV 2005, Martine McCutcheon, Art Malik)". Memorable TV. 13 January 2017. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  6. ^ "Show of Hands". New Zealand Film Commission. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  7. ^ "Fiction Book Review: Show of Hands by Anthony McCarten, Author . Washington Square $15 (230p) ISBN 978-1-4165-8607-4". PublishersWeekly.com. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  8. ^ Screen, NZ On. "Anthony McCarten | NZ On Screen". www.nzonscreen.com. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  9. ^ booksellersnz (14 August 2013). "Book Review: In the Absence of Heroes, by Anthony McCarten". Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  10. ^ "Brilliance". Historical Novel Society. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  11. ^ "Spotlight on… ANTHONY MCCARTEN – Circa Theatre". Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  12. ^ "Review: Darkest Hour". RNZ. 18 January 2018. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  13. ^ "What's Fact and What's Fiction in the Movie 'Darkest Hour'". Time. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
  14. ^ Mendelson, Scott (7 January 2019). "Bryan Singer Golden Globes Winning 'Bohemian Rhapsody' Is The Highest Grossing Drama Of All Time". Forbes Magazine.
  15. ^ Chilton, Bart (26 November 2018). "Bohemian Blockchain Rhapsody: Lessons to be Learned from Queen & Freddie". Forbes Magazine.
  16. ^ Aridi, Sara (6 January 2019). "Golden Globe Winners 2019: The Complete List". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  17. ^ "Oscar Nominations 2019: The Complete List". Variety. 22 January 2019. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  18. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (22 April 2020). "Whitney Houston Biopic Crystallizes; Stella Meghie Directing, Anthony McCarten Writing Script For Houston Estate, Primary Wave & Clive Davis". Deadline. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  19. ^ Kroll, Justin (1 September 2021). "Kasi Lemmons To Direct TriStar's Whitney Houston Biopic 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody'". Deadline. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  20. ^ Vlessing, Etan (20 August 2021). "Compelling Pictures Books Marina Studios for Whitney Houston Biopic, Film Slate Shoots (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  21. ^ "Anthony McCarten, the writer with the Midas touch, on his 'Pope Opera'". The Big Issue. 16 December 2019. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  22. ^ "London's The Collaboration Transferring to Broadway With Jeremy Pope and Paul Bettany". Playbill. 7 July 2022.
  23. ^ "Two Popes, The". www.goldenglobes.com.

External links[edit]