John Hopkins (writer)

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John Hopkins
Born John Richard Hopkins
(1931-01-27)27 January 1931
London, England, UK
Died 23 July 1998(1998-07-23) (aged 67)
Woodland Hills, California, US
Nationality British
Other names John R. Hopkins
Occupation Writer
Years active 1957–1995
Spouse(s) Prudence Balchin (1954–69, div.)
Shirley Knight (1969–1998)
Children 1

John Richard Hopkins (sometimes credited as John R. Hopkins; 27 January 1931 – 23 July 1998) was a British film, stage, and television writer.


Born in southwest London, Hopkins was educated at Raynes Park County Grammar School, did National Service in the Army from 1950-1951 and read literature at St Catharine's College, Cambridge.[1] He began his career as a studio manager for BBC Television in the 1950s, before establishing himself as a writer beginning when his then father-in-law Nigel Balchin asked him to try his hand at adapting one of his novels, A Small Back Room, for television[2] that appeared on the BBC Sunday Night Theatre in 1959. Hopkins then adapted Margery Allingham's novels about the private detective Albert Campion into two six-part serials, Dancers in Mourning (1959) and Death of a Ghost (1960). Hopkins followed with a series based on Rosamund Lehmann's The Weather in the Streets (1961). He wrote his own thriller series, A Chance of Thunder in 1961.[3]

Hopkins was best known for the 1962 BBC popular police drama Z-Cars. Hopkins eventually wrote over ninety episodes of Z-Cars, one of which featured young actress Judi Dench in the role of a delinquent youngster. This character inspired Hopkins to write what is probably his best remembered work for the small screen, the four-part play sequence Talking to a Stranger (1966). Starring Dench and transmitted as part of BBC2's Theatre 625 anthology series, the plays told the story of one bleak weekend from the viewpoints of four members of the same family. Two Wednesday Plays from this period by Hopkins were Fable from January 1965[4] and Horror of Darkness broadcast the following March.[5] The former imagines an inverted South African apartheid in Britain[4] while the later is a rare exploration of homosexuality in the 1960s.[6]

Hopkins made his feature film debut with the screenplay he co-wrote with director Roy Ward Baker Two Left Feet (1963), a lightweight comedy-drama with Michael Crawford.[7] He received co-screenwriter credit with Richard Maibaum for the fourth James Bond film James Bond movie Thunderball[8] (1965). In 1969 he co-wrote the screenplay for Leslie Thomas' boys-in-uniform comedy The Virgin Soldiers. He worked on the script for the 1972 film adaptation of Man of La Mancha, although he was removed from this project by United Artists when they discovered that his draft omitted most of the songs from the musical. His screenplay pitting Sherlock Holmes against Jack the Ripper, Murder by Decree, was released in 1979, directed by Bob Clark with Christopher Plummer as Holmes and James Mason as Watson.

He wrote his first stage play, This Story of Yours, in 1968. Though it had poor reviews when it was staged at the Royal Court Theatre, one person who was impressed by the play was Sean Connery who chose it as a personal film project under the working title Something Like the Truth. Connery not only produced the film under a deal with United Artists when he returned to his James Bond role, but also acted in the film version, directed by Sidney Lumet released in 1972 as The Offence. Hopkins' plays for the stage included Next of Kin, which was produced at London's National Theatre in 1974 with Harold Pinter directing.[9][10]

His play, Find Your Way Home (1970) was produced in London and then on Broadway where it won a “Best Actor” Tony Award for Michael Moriarty.[11]

His later television work includes the Play for Today A Story to Frighten the Children (1976), and the adaptation of John le Carré's novel Smiley's People (1982), starring Alec Guinness, both for the BBC; and the Cold War espionage thriller Codename: Kyril (1988) for ITV.

Hopkins adapted Dostoevsky’s The Gambler (1973) for television, it starred Edith Evans, and he wrote the two-part television screenplay, Divorce His; Divorce Hers (1973), which starred Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.[12]

Hopkins died at his home in Woodland Hills, California, United States, in July 1998, following an accident in which he slipped, hit his head and fell unconscious into his swimming pool, where he drowned.


In 1954, Hopkins married Prudence Anne Balchin, a daughter of author Nigel Balchin. In 1969 he married the American actress Shirley Knight.


  1. ^ The same college as the director Terence Young.
  2. ^ Van Gelder, Lawrence John R. Hopkins, 67, Writer for TV, Theater and Movies New York Times August 3, 1998
  3. ^ Hayward, Anthony Obituary: John Hopkins The Independent 1 August 1998
  4. ^ a b Mark Duguid "Fable (1965), BFI screenonline
  5. ^ Tise Vahimagi Horror of Darkness (1965), BFI screenonline
  6. ^ Brown, Mark (16 March 2013). "Newly unearthed ITV play could be first ever gay television drama". The Guardian. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Next of Kin by John Hopkins, The National Theatre, 1974 at
  10. ^ Otis L. Guernsey, The Best plays of 1973–1974 (Dodd, Mead, 1974), p. 108.
  11. ^ Hayward, Anthony. “Obituary: John Hopkins”. Independent. 31 July 1998.
  12. ^ Hayward, Anthony. “Obituary: John Hopkins”. Independent. 31 July 1998.

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