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R.I.P. Peter Shaffer, Oscar-winning writer of Amadeus

(Photo: Getty Images, Mike Lawn)

As reported by the BBC, playwright Peter Shaffer—who won multiple Tony Awards and a Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award—has died. He was 90.

Shaffer was born in Liverpool in 1926, and he worked as a coal miner during World War II. According to The New York Times, he later studied history at Cambridge and began writing mystery novels with his fraternal twin brother, Anthony (who also eventually became a Tony-winning playwright). After graduating, Shaffer moved to the United States and got a job at the New York Public Library, which is reportedly where he first became interested in the theater. He returned to England shortly after that and began writing plays, with his first production—The Salt Land—getting adapted for TV by the BBC in 1955.


Over the years, Shaffer would go on to write more than 18 plays, including Five Finger Exercise, Black Comedy, Lettice And Lovage, and—most famously—Equus and Amadeus. The former tells the story of a young stableboy who blinded a number of horses, and it won a Tony Award in 1975. Equus also enjoyed a much-publicized revival more recently, with a lot of the attention coming from the fact that it included a nude scene with Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe. A movie adaptation of Equus came out in 1977, earning Shaffer an Oscar nomination.

Amadeus, Shaffer’s most famous work, opened on Broadway in 1980 and ran for over 1,000 performances, earning Shaffer another Tony in the process. In 1984, director Miloš Forman adapted Amadeus into a critically acclaimed movie, with the production later winning eight Academy Awards—including Best Adapted Screenplay for Shaffer.

Shaffer is survived by a brother, two nephews, and two nieces.

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