Dennis Kelly

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Dennis Kelly
Born (1970-11-16) 16 November 1970 (age 51)
Barnet, London, England
OccupationPlaywright, film and television scriptwriter
EducationFinchley Catholic High School
Alma materGoldsmiths College, University of London
Notable worksDebris (2003)
Osama the Hero (2005)
Love and Money (2006)
DNA (2008)
Orphans (2009)
Matilda the Musical (2010)
Utopia (2013)

Dennis Kelly (born 16 November 1970) is a British scriptwriter for theatre, television and film.

His play DNA, first performed in 2007, became a core set-text for GCSE in 2010[1] and has been studied by approximately 400,000 students each year.[2] He wrote the script for Matilda the Musical, which had music and lyrics from comedian Tim Minchin. The musical went on to win multiple ‘Best Musical’ awards,[3] with Kelly receiving a Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical.[4]

For television he is known for co-creating and co-writing the BBC Three sitcom Pulling, the Channel 4 conspiracy thriller Utopia and the HBO / Sky Atlantic thriller The Third Day.

Kelly wrote the screenplay for the 2014 film Black Sea, directed by Kevin Macdonald and starring Jude Law.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Kelly grew up on a council estate in Barnet, North London.[6] A child of an Irish family, he was one of five children and was raised as a Catholic.[7] He attended Finchley Catholic High School.[8][9] Leaving school at 16 years of age, Kelly went to work in a market and then at Sainsbury's.[10]

While working in supermarkets, he discovered theatre when he joined a local youth group, the Barnet Drama Centre.[7]

Kelly says that he struggled with alcoholism during much of his 20s.[10] He attended Alcoholics Anonymous and has been sober since 2001.[11]

At the age of 30, he graduated from Goldsmiths College, University of London with First Class Honours in Drama and Theatre Arts.

In September 2011 Kelly married Neapolitan actress Monica Nappo. They had met five years earlier when Nappo was appearing in an Italian premiere of one of Kelly's plays.[6]

At one point Kelly shared his home in Deptford with Vladimir Shcherban from the Belarus Free Theatre company. Kelly offered his home to Shcherban as a place to stay when Shcherban was facing homelessness. Shcherban's situation came as a result of him having to flee (with other members of the theatre company) from Belarus to London as a means to escape political censorship and persecution in the aftermath of the 2010 Belarusian presidential election, where oppositional candidates had been arrested.[12]

Career[edit]

Kelly has credited Sharon Horgan for making him become a writer. They had both initially met in the early 1990s at LOST youth theatre where they performed in a production of Anton Chekov's The Seagull. They again met each other some years later while both drunk in a Camden pub. In the pub Kelly explained to Horgan that he had written a play.[13] The next day Horgan phoned Kelly up and told him that they should both put the play on. Kelly has said that "I honestly think, had I not bumped into her, I wouldn’t have become a writer, because I don’t think I’d have had the drive. Sharon always had a lot of drive and was quite fearless."[14] The play that Kelly wrote was called Brendan's Visit, which was performed at the Etcetera Theatre and Canal Cafe Theatre, with Horgan playing one of the characters.[15] Kelly has disowned the play saying that "I’ve killed everyone who ever saw it, let’s never talk about that ever again. […] I don’t think I can remember what it was about but I’m definitely not going to say what it was about! It was just a sitcom with swearing which is like a lot people’s first plays."[11]

Kelly's first professionally produced play Debris was written when he was 30 years old.[16] He says he wrote it imagining he'd give himself a part. Staged at Theatre503 in 2003, it transferred the next year to Battersea Arts Centre. It was well received and he went on to write the controversially titled Osama the Hero which was produced by Hampstead Theatre, beginning a long-running relationship with the theatre.

He wrote After the End in 2005. It was produced by Paines Plough in his first out of London production at the Traverse, though it later came to the Bush Theatre before going on a tour of the UK and internationally in 2006.

Love and Money was staged at the Royal Exchange, Manchester and then at the Young Vic in 2006. That same year his sitcom Pulling,[17] co-written and starring Sharon Horgan, aired on BBC Three. It received good ratings for the channel and was well reviewed, being nominated for a BAFTA TV Award for Best Situation Comedy in 2007.

Returning to theatre and the Hampstead Theatre in 2007, his fake verbatim play Taking Care of Baby was another success for both writer and theatre.[citation needed]

For the 2007 National Theatre Connections Festival, he wrote DeoxyriboNucleic Acid (better known by the title DNA) which after the connections received a professional production alongside The Miracle by Lin Coghlan and Baby Girl by Roy Williams at the National Theatre in the Cottesloe.[18] The play is now used widely in schools and is on several curriculums for GCSE drama.

The second series of Pulling ran in 2008 and won a British Comedy Award. However, the show was not renewed for a third series, although in 2009 an hour-long special closed the series. That same year he also wrote an episode for Series 8 of Spooks.

In 2009, his play Orphans was staged at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre before transferring to the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Kelly was one of the ten writers who took part in writing monologues based on a children's account for a one-off event at the Old Vic Theatre directed by Danny Boyle in London in support of Dramatic Need in 2010. His three monologues were performed by Ben Kingsley, Jenny Jules and Charlie Cox.[19]

In 2010, Kelly returned to the Hampstead Theatre once more for his response to Shakespeare's King Lear, The Gods Weep starring Jeremy Irons, with mixed reviews. His next theatrical venture fared much better; his musical version of Roald Dahl's Matilda co-written with comedian Tim Minchin was a hit at the RSC in 2011. It transferred to the West End and has won several awards including Best Musical at the Evening Standard Awards, The Critics' Circle and Theatre Awards.

His work has been produced in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Ireland, Iceland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, Australia, Japan, the United States, Belgium, Denmark, Romania and Canada. Other work includes translations of Péter Kárpáti's Fourth Gate (National Theatre Studio) and The Colony, a radio play which won Best European Radio Drama at the Prix Europa, 2004.

He wrote an adaptation of Pinocchio featuring the songs and score from the Walt Disney film for the National Theatre, opening in December 2017.

Kelly's play Girls & Boys had its world premiere at The Royal Court Theatre in February 2018, starring Carey Mulligan.

Works[edit]

Film[edit]

Theatre[edit]

Radio[edit]

  • 12 Shares (2005)
  • The Colony (2004)[22]

Television[edit]

Abandoned, cancelled or unproduced[edit]

Plays[edit]

  • White Pig: a play written around 2002 which Kelly says was about a passive boy with food-obsessed parents who had non-real characters wandering into his life.[11] Kelly has said that, "I used to have lots of these really odd meetings with theatres where I’d go in and they’d tell me how much they loved the play and then tell me they weren’t going to do it".[23] The play was eventually performed publicly at Jacksons Lane by students of Mountview on 30 September 2016.[24] However, no professional production has been mounted and the script remains unpublished.
  • Fifty-Three Million Miles: a play Kelly says was written early in his career, set variously on a council estate, a NASA interview room, and a living pod on Mars.[16][11] The play remaineds unproduced and the script unpublished.

Television[edit]

  • Pulling, series 3: the television sitcom Pulling, which Kelly co-wrote with Sharon Horgan, was unexpectedly not renewed for a third series by BBC Three despite Kelly and Horgan both wanting to write another series. Instead, the channel opted for a one-hour special to tie up loose ends of the narrative.[25] The sitcom had received good ratings, critical success and a nomination for a BAFTA award.[26][27] BBC Three controller Danny Cohen denied claims the channel was chasing a younger audience, saying the series was cancelled to make room for new shows.[26][25]
  • Utopia, series 3 and 4: in October 2014, Channel 4 announced that Kelly's conspiracy thriller Utopia had been cancelled after its second series.[28][29] Kelly said, "The people who liked it really liked it, but the ratings were just bad. I don’t know why. I think going out in the summer didn’t help. It’s gutting not being able to finish the story. We did want to do a special. We said to Channel 4, ‘I could finish it off with a two-hour special,’ but they weren’t going for it. I understand, though. It was a risky show to do."[5] The show's cancellation prompted The Independent in 2015 to publish a list of "The best prematurely cancelled TV shows", with Utopia placed first.[30] In 2017 The Guardian included Utopia in a list of "the best shows that had the plug pulled on them".[31] Publications such as NME and the i newspaper website felt that Netflix should fund a continuation of Utopia for its streaming service.[32][33] In a 2020 interview about the US remake of Utopia, Kelly said there would be difficulties in making another series but he had not ruled out the possibility.[34]
  • Consider Phlebas adaptation: In February 2018, Amazon Studios announced plans to adapt Iain Banks' Consider Phlebas for television, with Kelly as writer.[35] However, development was discontinued in 2020. Kelly said Banks' estate had not yet seen anything he had written for the project but he believed they did not feel ready to proceed.[36]

Film[edit]

  • World War Z sequel: in 2015 Kelly was reported to have been hired to rewrite a sequel to World War Z. The film was being developed by Paramount Pictures with Brad Pitt to star, and a release slated for June 2017.[37][38] In 2019, Paramount reportedly cancelled the sequel due to budgetary issues, the death of executive Brad Grey who was a key advocate for the film, and director David Fincher's involvement with his Mindhunter series.[39] However, The Hollywood Reporter reported the cancellation was mainly due to a Chinese government ban on zombie films.[40]

Awards and honours[edit]

Awards

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result Ref
2015 BAFTA TV Craft Awards Writer – Drama Utopia Nominated [41]
2014 RTS Programme Awards Drama Series Nominated [42]
Writer – Drama Nominated
BAFTA TV Craft Awards Writer – Drama Nominated [43]
International Emmy Awards Best Drama Series Won [44]
2013 Tony Awards Best Book of A Musical Matilda the Musical Won [4]
Outer Critics Circle Awards Outstanding Book of a Musical (Broadway or Off-Broadway) Won [45]
Outstanding New Broadway Musical Nominated
Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Musical Won [46]
Outstanding Book of a Musical Won
2012 South Bank Sky Arts Awards Theatre prize Won [47]
Olivier Awards Best Musical Won [48]
2011 Evening Standard Awards The Ned Sherrin Award for Best Musical Won [49]
Critics' Circle Theatre Award Best Musical Won [50]
TMA UK Theatre Awards Best Musical Won [51]
WhatsOnStage Awards The SEE TICKETS Best New Musical Award Won [52]
2009 The Scotsman Fringe First Award Orphans Won [53]
The Herald (Glasgow) Herald Angel Award Won [54]
British Comedy Award Best Television Comedy Drama Pulling Won [55]
Theater heute Best Foreign Playwright Taking Care of Baby Won
The South Bank Show Awards Comedy Award Pulling Won [56]
2007 TMA Awards Best New Play Taking Care of Baby Nominated
John Whiting Award Won
Laurence Olivier Awards Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre Love and Money Nominated
BAFTA TV Award Best Situation Comedy Pulling Nominated [57]
2006 Meyer-Whitworth Award Osama the Hero Won [58]
2004 Radio & Music Award Scripting for Broadcast The Colony Won
Prix Europa Best European Radio Drama Of The Year Won [59]

Honours

On 9 November 2015, Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts awarded both Kelly and Matilda co-collaborator Tim Minchin an Honorary Doctorate in letters, validated by the University of East Anglia, for their work on Matilda the Musical.[60][61]

In July 2017 Kelly received an 'Honorary Fellowship' from Goldsmiths, University of London.[62]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Archived webpage from 2016 of Dennis Kelly's page on his agent's website
  2. ^ Sierz, Aleks. Introduction. Dennis Kelly: Plays Two: Our Teacher's a Troll; Orphans; Taking Care of Baby; DNA; The Gods Weep. By Kelly, Dennis. London: Oberon Books Ltd.
  3. ^ Awards section on the Matilda The Musical website
  4. ^ a b "Tony award winners 2013 – the full list". The Guardian. 10 June 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  5. ^ a b Kelly, Stephen (22 November 2014). "Director Kevin Macdonald and writer Dennis Kelly on going back to basics for gripping submarine thriller Black Sea". The Independent. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  6. ^ a b "Dennis Kelly: I can't imagine a more violent writer than Shakespeare". Evening Standard. 10 April 2012. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  7. ^ a b Sierz, Aleks (27 July 2005). "In pursuit of monsters". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 November 2012. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  8. ^ Alumni page on the Finchley Catholic High School website
  9. ^ Caven, James (21 December 2015). "Finchley school appeals for photographs and memories as preparations get under way for 90th anniversary". Barnet Borough Times. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  10. ^ a b Costa, Maddy (10 September 2013). "Dennis Kelly: 'I thought that drinking was all I had to offer'". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  11. ^ a b c d DENNIS KELLY: 20% HOT, 100% ALIVE on the Writerly blog
  12. ^ Shcherban, Vladimir (20 September 2014). "Too much British theatre is defined by finance and funding". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  13. ^ Horgan, Sharon (March 2015). "Sharon Horgan talks to Dennis Kelly". Chain Reaction. Series 10. BBC. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  14. ^ Saner, Emine (4 October 2019). "Sharon Horgan's unstoppable rise as master of honest comedy". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  15. ^ Sharon Horgan's Acting CV
  16. ^ a b Kelly, Dennis (28 February 2008). "Identity crisis". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  17. ^ "Pulling", BBC
  18. ^ "DNA", National Theatre, 2008, archived from the original on 8 June 2009
  19. ^ "Dramatic Need", Children's Monologues, November 2010, archived from the original on 31 August 2012
  20. ^ "The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas at The Royal Court Theatre". The Royal Court Theatre. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  21. ^ "doollee.com - the playwrights database of modern plays". www.doollee.com.
  22. ^ "BBC - The Wire - The Colony - Writers Room". www.bbc.co.uk.
  23. ^ Audio and transcript of part one of 'Nation Theatre Connections Playwrights Roundtable' on the TheatreVOICE website
  24. ^ 'Autumn/Winter Season 16' Mountview brochure
  25. ^ a b Cohen, Danny; Holmwood, Leigh (2 October 2008). "BBC3 axes Pulling after two series". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  26. ^ Raphael, Amy (16 May 2009). "There's no moral centre to Pulling because we don't have one!". The Guardian. London.
  27. ^ "C4 Utopia". Twitter. 9 October 2014.
  28. ^ "Exclusive: C4's Utopia won't return for series 3". Den of Geek. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  29. ^ Rentoul, John (18 January 2015). "The best prematurely cancelled TV shows from Deadwood to Ripper Street". The Independent. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  30. ^ "My So-Called Life to Utopia: are these the most foolish TV cancellations ever?". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  31. ^ Bartleet, Larry. "10 TV shows cancelled before their time that Netflix should resurrect". NME. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  32. ^ Butler, Mark. "Why Utopia deserves a Netflix revival". inews. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  33. ^ Mellor, Louisa. "UK Utopia Creator Dennis Kelly: 'There's Always a Possibility of Going Back'". Den of Geek. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  34. ^ "Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks". 21 February 2018. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  35. ^ "Amazon cancels TV adaptation of Iain M. Banks' sci-fi Culture series". 26 August 2020. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  36. ^ Siegel, Tatiana; Kit, Borys (30 October 2015). "'World War Z' Sequel Moves Forward After 'Jurassic World 2' Drama (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  37. ^ McNary, Dave (30 October 2015). "Brad Pitt's 'World War Z' Sequel Draws Dennis Kelly for New Draft". Variety. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  38. ^ Perez, Rodrigo (6 February 2019). "Paramount Pulls The Plug On David Fincher's 'World War Z' Sequel". The Playlist. Archived from the original on 8 February 2019. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  39. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (18 May 2019). "Zombie Films at Cannes: What's Up With All the Undead?". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 20 May 2019. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  40. ^ Television Craft | Writer - Drama in 2015 webpage on the BAFTAs website
  41. ^ RTS PROGRAMME AWARDS 2014 on the Royal Television Society website
  42. ^ Television Craft | Writer - Drama in 2014 webpage on the BAFTAs website
  43. ^ "International Emmys: UK's 'Utopia' Wins Best Drama; Belgium's 'What If' Takes Comedy (FULL LIST)". Variety. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
  44. ^ "2012-13 Outer Critics Circle Award Winners Announced - PIPPIN Tops List with 7, Followed by KINKY BOOTS". broadwayworld.com. 13 May 2013. Retrieved 3 May 2013.
  45. ^ "Nominations Announced for 58th Annual Drama Desk Awards". Playbill. 29 April 2013. Archived from the original on 1 May 2013. Retrieved 3 May 2013.
  46. ^ "Matilda wins at South Bank awards". BBC News. 1 May 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  47. ^ "Olivier Award Winners Announced - Matilda Dominates!". London Theatre. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  48. ^ Jury, Louise; Foster, Alistair (10 April 2012). "Sheridan Smith crowned queen of London stage at our Theatre Awards". The Evening Standard. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  49. ^ "The Critics' Circle Theatre Awards 2011". The Critics' Circle. 25 January 2011. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
  50. ^ "THEATRE AWARDS UK 2011". THEATRE AWARDS UK. Archived from the original on 29 December 2011. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
  51. ^ "Full List: 2012 Whatsonstage.com Award winners". WhatsOnStage. 19 February 2012. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  52. ^ Wiegand, Chris (14 August 2009). "Traverse scores a hat-trick in Edinburgh's Fringe First awards". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  53. ^ "Angels fly off with awards". The Herald. 15 August 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  54. ^ 2009 Winners on the British Comedy Awards website
  55. ^ "Pulling scoops South Bank Award". Chortle. 21 January 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  56. ^ 2007 Television Award for Situation Comedy on the BAFTAs website
  57. ^ Meyer Whitworth Award winners on the Playwright's Studio Scotland website
  58. ^ PRIX EUROPA 2004 - AWARDS PDF
  59. ^ MountviewLDN (13 November 2015). "Writer Dennis Kelly's Hilarious Graduation Advice". Archived from the original on 13 December 2021 – via YouTube.
  60. ^ Snow, Georgia (11 November 2015). "Matilda writers Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly awarded honorary degrees from Mountview". The Stage. Archived from the original on 3 August 2017.
  61. ^ Goldsmiths honours Hope Powell CBE, Dennis Kelly, Gabriel Prokofiev, and Dorothy Cross on the Goldsmiths website

External links[edit]