Tom Stoppard

(Sir Tom Stoppard)

Tom Stoppard
Tom Stoppard
  • Born: July 3, 1937
  • Nationality: English
  • Profession: Dramatist

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Sir Tom Stoppard OM CBE FRSL is a Czech-born British playwright and screenwriter. He has written prolifically for TV, radio, film and stage, finding prominence with plays such as Arcadia, The Coast of Utopia, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, Professional Foul, The Real Thing, The Invention of Love, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. He co-wrote the screenplays for Brazil, The Russia House, and Shakespeare in Love, and has received an Academy Award and four Tony Awards. His work covers the themes of human rights, censorship and political freedom, often delving into the deeper philosophical thematics of society. Stoppard has been a key playwright of the National Theatre and is one of the most internationally performed dramatists of his generation. In 2008, The Daily Telegraph ranked him number 11 in their list of the "100 most powerful people in British culture".

Quotes About
Author Quote
Quotes
Quote Topics Cited
if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon. Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers
It’s better to be quotable than to be honest. Public Relations & Image
Junk journalism is the evidence of a society that has got at least one thing right, that there should be nobody with the power to dictate where responsible journalism begins Media, Journalism & The Press
The House of Lords, an illusion to which I have never been able to subscribe--responsibility without power, the prerogative of the eunuch throughout the ages. Power
War is capitalism with the gloves off … War & Peace ;Capitalism
When someone disagrees with you on a moral point you assume that he is one step behind in his thinking, and he assumes that he has gone one step ahead. Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
A free press needs to be a respected press.
A healthy attitude is contagious but don't wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier. Health, Healthcare & Medicine
A 'human right' is, by definition, timeless. It cannot adhere to some societies and not others, at some times and not at other times.
A movie camera is like having someone you have a crush on watching you from afar - you pretend it's not there.
Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.
All your life, you live so close to truth, it becomes a permanent blur in the corner of your eye. And when something nudges it into outline, it is like being ambushed by a grotesque. Truth ;Life
As a child, I was airlifted out of the path of the Nazis. Unfortunately, I was parachuted into the path of the Japanese, but then I was airlifted again to India.
Beauty is desired in order that it may be befouled; not for its own sake, but for the joy brought by the certainty of profaning it.
Because theatre is a story-telling art form, we feel entitled to assume that the playwright got there before we got there. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Chekhov understood that people are mysterious and can't be reduced to what we nowadays call 'motivation.'
Corporeal death is not the whole story. Death
Even when the writing seems very frivolous, I'm puritanical. I don't mean my subject matter. It's that I'm almost pathologically incapable of leaving something when I'm not quite happy with it.
Every exit is an entry somewhere else. Motivation
For a long time I managed to think two things simultaneously, that I am actually a good playwright, and that the next time I write a play I will be revealed as someone who is no good at all. Time
For me, human rights simply endorse a view of life and a set of moral values that are perfectly clear to an eight-year-old child. A child knows what is fair and isn't fair, and justice derives from that knowledge. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Life
For me, the reputation for teaching language in general, and East European languages most particularly, gave Glasgow University, and by reflection the country, a distinction.
From as long as, literally as far back as I can remember I've liked puns, word jokes, I can literally recall looking at a comic at the age of six or seven and I remember what I enjoyed and what it was precisely and how the joke worked.
From principles is derived probability, but truth or certainty is obtained only from facts. Truth
Good things, when short, are twice as good.
Honesty is seldom ingratiating and often discomfiting.
I am not a mathematician, but I was aware that for centuries, mathematics was considered the queen of the sciences because it claimed certainty. It was grounded on some fundamental certainties - axioms - that led to others.
I barely remembered my father; I'm confused between genuine memory and the few photographs that survived.
I don't believe there is something called 'film' and something called 'theater,' and that words belong in the theater. Some rather bad films have few words in them; some good films have a lot of words in them.
I don't do interviews under false pretenses.
I don't look at my work in a critical or analytical way; I just don't think of myself objectively. It doesn't interest me. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I don't think falling in love in Slovakia is much different from falling in love in Tunbridge Wells. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
I don't think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little or make a poem which children will speak for you when you're dead. Respect
I don't want to come over as some boringly self-deprecating person. But I don't see myself as a groundbreaking writer in the way plays are structured.
I feel that when I began writing, I had a need to know more about the play before I got into it. I think that's the way I was thinking. But my actual experience is that the best way to find out what the structure is, is by writing the play out laterally. You just have got to be brave enough to start without knowing where you are going.
I just happen to know quite a lot of what happened in Czechoslovakia between 1968 and the fall of Communism.
I like dialogue that is slightly more brittle than life. I have always admired and wished to write one of those 1940s film scripts where every line is written with a sharpness and economy that is frankly artificial. Life
I loved the Beatles when they turned up, and the Stones when they turned up, and never really stopped liking them.
I once did a radio program with a famous materialist, that is to say a scientist who believed that absolutely everything was physical and that all emotions were reductive to little electrical impulses in your neurons. And I found that I didn't believe that. But what the emotions really are, I don't have an alternative theory. Fame
I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.
I think... the history of civilization is an attempt to codify, classify and categorize aspects of human nature that hardly lend themselves to that process. Nature ;History
I was an awful critic. I operated on the assumption that there was an absolute scale of values against which art could be measured. I didn't trust my own subjective responses. Trust ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
I was interested by the idea that artists working in a totalitarian dictatorship or tsarist autocracy are secretly and slightly shamefully envied by artists who work in freedom. They have the gratification of intense interest: the authorities want to put them in jail, while there are younger readers for whom what they write is pure oxygen. Freedom & Liberty ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I was so thrilled being a reporter, because it gave you the kind of access to people that you wouldn't ever get to meet.
I write scenes - often quite long scenes - mainly because I still get seduced into writing six lines where one and a half will do.
If Beethoven had been killed in a plane crash at the age of 22, it would have changed the history of music and of aviation. Music, Chants & Rapps ;History
If enough things that are untrue are said about you, no one will know what really is true.
If you are well known at something else, you get points for doing stuff which lots of other people do, and much more, and they don't get any points at all. You get over-praised, over-credited.
If you associate enough with older people who do enjoy their lives, who are not stored away in any golden ghettos, you will gain a sense of continuity and of the possibility for a full life. Life
If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.
If you let the plot be determined by what you feel is in the character's mind at that point, it may not turn out to be a very good play, but at least it will be a play where people are behaving in a kind of truthful way.
I'm good at being funny. Humor
I'm hopeless at looking into myself and trying to see how things are working and why.
I'm not a theoretician about playwriting, but I have a strong sense that plays have to be pitched - the scene, the line, the word - at the exact point where the audience has just the right amount of information. It's like Occam's razor.
I'm not like some other writers: I have no actual urgent need or desire to add to what's written. You write it; if you're lucky, it's performed, and that's the end of the whole thing.
I'm not one of those writers who insist they don't read reviews and don't care much about them. I do read them, and I do care about them, and they're not always what you want them to be in an ideal world.
I'm offended by things and take pathetic little stands against them.
I'm so grateful to grab hold of something that wants to be a play. It doesn't happen very often. I don't have unwritten plays waiting for their turn.
In Chekhov, everything blends into its opposite, just fractionally, and this is sort of unsettling. And that's why you end up 100 years later asking, 'Is that moment tragic or comic?'
In January 1962, when I was the author of one and a half unperformed plays, I attended a student production of 'The Birthday Party' at the Victoria Rooms in Bristol. Just before it began, I realised that Harold Pinter was sitting in front of me.
In the end, my children put me on to Pink Floyd when they were teenagers.
In the period before the arrival of Mrs. Thatcher, politics had been in such low esteem. Everything was so hedged, so mealy-mouthed. Then along came this woman who seemed to have no manners at all and said exactly what she thought. Everyone's eyes were popping and their jaws were dropping, and I really enjoyed that. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
In the theater there is often a tension, almost a contradiction, between the way real people would think and behave, and a kind of imposed dramaticness.
It is easily and often overlooked that when Thomas Jefferson asserted that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were inalienable human rights, he did so on the ground that they had been endowed by God, our Creator. Life ;Religion & God ;Happiness & Unhappiness
It is no light matter to put in jeopardy a single life when it is the very singularity of each life which underpins the idea of a just society. Society ;Life
It was a different planet in 1967, the Broadway theatre. It had a little ashtray clamped to the back of every seat and the author got 10% of the gross.
It's not the voting that's democracy; it's the counting. Government
It's really hard to talk about writing, and I'm usually conscious if I'm misleading people or misleading the questioner, because the problem with writing is the next line.
It's very common for people to recommend something to me because they're going on what I've already written, when, what really is the case, is that you want to write about something you haven't written about, in ways that you haven't done before.
I've got no interest in educating or instructing people.
I've never really worked out this thought, and I don't know if I'm really conscious of it, but I can see there's an attraction about writing about a period that's over and isn't going to change colour while you look at it.
I've seldom minded other people's opinions, but the other side of that coin is that I've seldom been interested by them, um their opinions about me I mean.
I've voted in every election - not always for the same political party and never with any degree of enthusiasm.
James Joyce - an essentially private man who wished his total indifference to public notice to be universally recognized.
Life is a gamble, at terrible odds - if it was a bet you wouldn't take it. Life
Maturity is a high price to pay for growing up.
My desk faces the water, and I'm perfectly happy sitting there. I'm never lonely.
My family was in Singapore when the Japanese War started. We were in Singapore at the time of Pearl Harbor, and by the beginning of 1942, the Japanese invasion of Burma and Singapore had started. Time ;Families, Children & Parenting ;War & Peace
My father was a doctor in Moravia, in the south of the country. There were a number of Jewish doctors in the hospital there, and at a certain point - almost too late, really, but in time - they were all sent overseas by their employer. Time
My intention still is to write a play to commemorate, possibly rather skeptically, the 50th anniversary of the Russian revolution. I started it at the beginning of 1966, but confronted with the enormous importance and reality of that revolution, I absolutely boggle. I don't know what to do about it.
My life feels, week to week, incomplete to the level of being pointless if I am not in preparation for the next play or, ideally, into it. Life
My whole life is waiting for the questions to which I have prepared answers. Life
My work always tried to unite the true with the beautiful; but when I had to choose one or the other, I usually chose the beautiful. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Obviously, you would give your life for your children, or give them the last biscuit on the plate. But to me, the trick in life is to take that sense of generosity between kin, make it apply to the extended family and to your neighbour, your village and beyond. Life ;Families, Children & Parenting
One of the attractions of translating 'Heroes' is that it's not the kind of play that I write. If it had been, I probably wouldn't have wanted to translate it. There are no one-liners. It's much more a truthful comedy than a play of dazzling wit.
One of the nice things about the world of filmmaking is that you make friends in the business. Sometimes directors feel a script needs something, but they're not sure what it is, so they show it to a friend; if the friend is a writer, he ends up kicking around with that script for a while. Business, Commerce & Finance
One of the reasons why there are so many versions of Chekhov is that translations date in a way that the original doesn't; translations seem to be of their time. Time
People have quite a simple idea about 'Anna Karenina.' They feel that the novel is entirely about a young married woman who falls in love with a cavalry officer and leaves her husband after much agony, and pays the price for that. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
Pink Floyd are one of a handful of bands I've listened to a lot and whose concerts I've been to. I love the experience. I don't dance; I just jig up and down like everybody else. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
Possibly because I did start off as a journalist, my starting point has always been that you've got to keep an audience with you. Whatever you're doing, you always want a script to be a page-turner. It's very important never, ever, to feel above that.
Responsibilities gravitate to the person who can shoulder them.
Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Success is a sort of metaphysical experience. I live exactly as I did before - only on a slightly bigger scale. Naturally, I won't be corrupted. I'll sit there in my Rolls, uncorrupted, and tell my chauffeur, uncorruptedly, where to go. Success
That I have the right to express myself freely at all times in all circumstances entails the idea that free speech is a 'basic human right' possessed by each individual, and, as such, trumps the interests of the society or group, including my neighbour. Society
The bad end unhappily, the good unluckily. That is what tragedy means.
The House of Lords, an illusion to which I have never been able to subscribe - responsibility without power, the prerogative of the eunuch throughout the ages. Power
The idea of the state is, or should be, a very limited, prescribed idea. The state looks after the defense of the realm, and other matters - raising revenue to pay for things which are for all of us, and so on. That idea has turned turtle now. The state isn't any longer perceived as an institution which exists to serve us.
The idea that anybody might be allowed to use their common sense when clearly no harm is being done is part of history now. History
The idea that being human and having rights are equivalent - that rights are inherent - is unintelligible in a Darwinian world.
The idea that public safety, the safety of the innocent, is an absolute which trumps every other consideration, is tacitly abandoned in the way we live.
'The Importance of Being Earnest' is important, but it says nothing about anything.
The notion that the 'leader' has the right to ask huge sacrifices of your generation for a notional future paradise - if you'd be good enough to lie down under the wheels of the juggernaut - that sentimental and self-aggrandising rationalisation for brute force and cowardice I felt from adolescence was wrong. Future
The possibilities are infinite with new writing; every time you open a new script, there's no limit to what it might contain. Time
The printed word is no longer as in demand as when I was of the age of pupils or even at the age of the teachers teaching them.
The text loses its virginity simply by being staged: it's no longer the abstract ideal version; it's an event.
The thing that happens remarkably often is that the people who are writing a dissertation believe they need to speak to me in order to do their dissertation. They need to interview me.
The truth of the matter is that I used to be much more - as it were - shy. Now I don't care! Truth
The way 'star' used to be reserved for a small number of people, and when the star category became so vast, they came up with 'superstar,' and then they came up with 'megastar.'
The whole excitement for writing anything is quite intense. And for a day or two, you think you've done everything extremely well. The problems start on the third day, and continues for the rest of your life. Life
The whole philosophy of modern times is to dissolve distinctions between individuals and deal with them as large collections of people. It's essentially self-interested on the part of authority.
Theater in New York is nearer to the street. In London, you have to go deep into the building, usually, to reach the place where theater happens. On Broadway, only the fire doors separate you from the sidewalk, and you're lucky if the sound of a police car doesn't rip the envelope twice a night.
Theatre is a series of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.
There are certain sorts of jokes which have only to do with the substitution of the unexpected word in a familiar context. If you translated something into French and then had it translated back into English by somebody who didn't know the original, you'd lose what was funny. Humor
Time is short, life is short, there's a lot to know. So I skip the entertainers in the newspaper now. I just haven't got time. Life ;Time
To wrap up the idea of 'Parade's End' in a sentence or two, I would say it's a love story in which we see a man with two women, and we know what's attractive about them. And we know why and what they feel about him. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Women
We give advice by the bucket, but take it by the grain.
We're actors. We're the opposite of people.
What is the society we wish to protect? Is it the society of complete surveillance for the commonwealth? Is this the wealth we seek to have in common - optimal security at the cost of maximal surveillance? Society
When I think of how things could have turned out, I feel as if I've dodged, not just bullets, but 6mm shells.
When I was 20, in 1957, and maybe you would say I was old enough to know better, but nevertheless, I was completely nuts about Buddy Holly. And I loved pop bands that had absolutely no intellectual pretensions whatsoever. I loved the Monkees.
When I was a reporter in Bristol, which I was between the years 1954 and 1960, the newspaper would get tickets for whoever showed up to play a gig at the big hall down the road, so I saw some wonderful people. The Everly Brothers, for example.
When I was younger, I could do something useful just by being free for half a day, but now I need five days to get the world I've left out of my head and ten days or a fortnight not talking to anyone to hold what I need to hold inside my head.
When 'The Dark Side of the Moon' was a new album in 1973, a friend of mine walked into my room where I was working with a copy in his hand and said, 'You really have to do a play about this album.'
When you try to grasp the way the Western world is going, you see that we are on a ratchet towards a surveillance state, which is coming to include the whole population in its surveillance. This is our reward for accepting the restraints on the way we live now.
Writing a new play shouldn't be seen as a mystery belonging to a priesthood, but as a challenge, a technical challenge, just to get into it.
You can't but know that if you can capture the emotions of the audience as well as their minds, the play will work better, because it's a narrative art form. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
You can't go around chasing your own plays and showing up every time somebody does one somewhere. You just cross your fingers and hope that they're OK. Time ;Hope