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Jez Butterworth
Butterworth in 2019
Butterworth in 2019
BornJeremy Butterworth
(1969-03-04) March 4, 1969 (age 55)
London, England
  • Playwright
  • screenwriter
  • film director
Notable works
PartnerLaura Donnelly
RelativesJohn-Henry Butterworth (brother)

Jeremy "Jez" Butterworth (born 4 March 1969) is an English playwright, screenwriter, and film director. He has written screenplays in collaboration with his brothers, John-Henry and Tom.

Life and career

In March 1969, Butterworth was born in London, England. He has three brothers: older brothers Tom (born 1966) and Steve (born 1968); and younger brother John-Henry (born 1976). He also has a sister, Joanna. He attended Verulam Comprehensive School, St Albans, and St John's College, Cambridge, where he studied the English tripos and graduated in 1991.[1] All his brothers have been active in film and theatre: Steve is a producer, while Tom and John-Henry are writers.[citation needed]

Butterworth's play Mojo, which premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in 1995, won the 1996 Laurence Olivier,[2] Evening Standard, The Writer's Guild, and the George Devine awards, and the Critic's Circle Award. Butterworth also wrote and directed the film adaptation of Mojo (1997). The film featured Harold Pinter.[3]

Butterworth has said that Harold Pinter, 2005 Nobel Literature Laureate, has been a major influence on his work: "I know and admire Harold Pinter enormously. He has a ginormous influence on me. Conversations with him have inspired my work."[4]

In 1999 Butterworth was one of the recipients of the V Europe Prize Theatrical Realities awarded to the Royal Court Theatre[5] (with Sarah Kane, Mark Ravenhill, Conor McPherson, Martin McDonagh).[6]

Butterworth co-wrote and directed the film Birthday Girl (2001), which was produced by his brother Steve and starred Nicole Kidman.[7]

Butterworth received positive reviews of his play The Night Heron (2002), which premiered in the West End at the Royal Court Theatre. The Guardian reviewer wrote: "Can a play be simultaneously very good and very bad? I believe so."[8] The Winterling also ran at the Royal Court in 2006. The British Theatre Guide wrote: "The Winterling can be a difficult play but contains rich veins of comedy."[9]

In May 2007 Butterworth received the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.[citation needed]

His play Parlour Song[10] opened in New York to "rave reviews" at the Atlantic Theatre Company, Off-Broadway in March 2008.[4] The Almeida Theatre presented its European première in March 2009.[citation needed]

Butterworth's fourth play for the Royal Court Theatre was Jerusalem, which premiered in July 2009 to positive reviews. Described as a "contemporary vision of life in [England's] green and pleasant land", Jerusalem was the second important Butterworth production in London in 2009.[11] The production starred Mark Rylance as Johnny Byron, and featured Mackenzie Crook as Ginger in a supporting role. It was a sell-out at the Royal Court, won the Evening Standard Theatre Award and Critics' Circle Theatre Award for the best play of 2009 and, with the same cast, transferred to the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue in January 2010.[citation needed]

Jerusalem opened on Broadway in April 2011, with many of the original UK cast.[12] It returned to London later that year, again playing at the Apollo. In January 2014 Jerusalem opened at the San Francisco Playhouse,[13] where it also received rave reviews.[14] Jerusalem was nominated for the 2011 Tony Award, Play.[15] Mark Rylance won the 2011 Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Play.[12]

Jez and John-Henry Butterworth were named recipients of the Writers Guild of America West's 2011 Paul Selvin Award for their screenplay for the film Fair Game (2010), directed by Doug Liman and starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn.[citation needed]

On 26 October 2012, Butterworth's play The River opened at the Royal Court Theatre, starring Dominic West, Laura Donnelly and Miranda Raison, with an appearance by Gillian Saker.[16][17] The River had its US premiere on Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre in a limited engagement in October 2014, starring Hugh Jackman and directed by Ian Rickson.[18] Reception was positive, with London critics finding the work "lyrical", "beautifully written" and "suffuse[d] with wonder and beauty".[19]

In July 2017, Butterworth revealed he had declined the offer of appointment as Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) due to the Conservative government's pledge to hold a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union.[20]

The Ferryman

Butterworth's play The Ferryman opened at the Royal Court Theatre in April 2017. Directed by Sam Mendes,[21] it became the fastest selling play in the Royal Court Theatre's history.[22] Set in rural South Armagh in 1981 and focusing on the events surrounding the deaths of the IRA hunger strikers, it received 15 five-star reviews, including all the major UK papers. The Irish Times said, "Although Butterworth is English, The Ferryman feels like a thoroughly Irish play, not only because there is not a single false note in the dialogue."[23] The Huffington Post said that it was "one of the two or three greatest plays of the decade". But, The Guardian's Sean O'Hagan wrote, "I'm from Northern Ireland and it doesn't ring true", and it was "so close to a cultural stereotype as to be offensive".[24] Two weeks later The Irish Times printed an opinion piece by actor Gerard Lee (of Father Ted)[25] entitled "In defence of The Ferryman". He challenged negative comments, calling the play "layered and powerful".[26]

The Ferryman won the 2017 Evening Standard Award for Best Play, the 2018 Critics' Circle Award for Best New Play, the 2018 WhatsOnStage Award for Best New Play, and the 2018 Olivier Award for Best New Play.[27] It has played for over 350 performances at the Gielgud Theatre and transferred to Broadway in October 2018. The play won the 2019 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play and Tony Award for Best Play.[28]





Year Title Director
1997 Mojo Himself
2001 Birthday Girl
2007 The Last Legion Doug Lefler
2010 Fair Game Doug Liman
2014 Edge of Tomorrow
Get On Up Tate Taylor
2015 Black Mass Scott Cooper
Spectre Sam Mendes
2019 Ford v Ferrari James Mangold
2021 Flag Day Sean Penn
2023 Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny James Mangold


Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Work Result
1995 Evening Standard Theatre Award Most Promising Playwright Mojo Won
1996 Laurence Olivier Award Best New Comedy Won
1999 Europe Theatre Prize Europe Prize Theatrical Realities Won
2010 Laurence Olivier Award Best New Play Jerusalem Nominated
2011 Tony Award Best Play Nominated
2017 Critics' Circle Theatre Award[36] Best New Play The Ferryman Won
2018 Laurence Olivier Award Best New Play Won
2019 Tony Award Best Play Won


  1. ^ "Tripos examination results from Cambridge university", The Times, 9 July 1991, p. 34.
  2. ^ "Olivier Awards, 1996", retrieved 10 February 2018
  3. ^ " Mojo Film", retrieved 10, February 2018
  4. ^ a b Piepenburg, Erik (23 March 2008). "An Edge-of-Town Story as Simple as the Blues". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 March 2008.
  5. ^ "VII Edizione". Premio Europa per il Teatro (in Italian). Retrieved 24 December 2022.
  6. ^ "Europe Theatre Prize – VII Edition – Reasons". Retrieved 24 December 2022.
  7. ^ Arnoldi, Matt. "Film review – 'Birthday Girl'", 20 June 2002
  8. ^ Billington, Michael. "Theatre. 'The Night Heron'" The Guardian, 18 April 2002
  9. ^ Fisher, Philip. "Reviews. The Winterling", britishtheatreguide, 2006, retrieved 9 February 2018
  10. ^ Butterworth, J. (2009) Parlour Song, Nick Hern Books, London. ISBN 978-1-84842-026-7
  11. ^ Brantley, Ben (19 July 2009). "Time, and the Green and Pleasant Land". the New York Times.
  12. ^ a b " 'Jerusalem' Broadway" Playbill, retrieved 9 February 2018
  13. ^ "San Francisco Playhouse". San Francisco Playhouse. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  14. ^ "SF Gate". SF Gate. 27 January 2014. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  15. ^ Edemariam, Aida (14 May 2011). "The Saturday interview: Jez Butterworth". The Guardian. London.
  16. ^ Butterworth, Jez (2012). The River. London: Nick Hern Books. ISBN 9781848422896.
  17. ^ Lawson, Mark (30 October 2012). "How The River shows the power of a theatre programme". The Guardian.
  18. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "The River, Starring Tony Winner Hugh Jackman, Will Open at Broadway's Circle in the Square This Fall" Archived 12 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine, 9 May 2014
  19. ^ "High praise for Butterworth play". BBC News. 29 October 2012. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  20. ^ "Jez Butterworth turned down OBE over government's EU Referendum pledge". The Irish News. 16 July 2017. Retrieved 12 October 2023.
  21. ^ Hewis, Ben (31 October 2017). "Sam Mendes to direct Jez Butterworth play in new Royal Court season". Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  22. ^ "Jez Butterworth's The Ferryman transfers to The Gielgud Theatre". London Theatre. 8 February 2017. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  23. ^ Staunton, Denis. "North dominating more than political stage in London". The Irish Times. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  24. ^ O'Hagan, Sean (16 July 2017). "Critics loved The Ferryman. But I'm from Northern Ireland, and it doesn't ring true". the Guardian.
  25. ^ "Forsaken". New Island Books. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  26. ^ Lee, Gerard (1 August 2017). "In defence of The Ferryman by Jez Butterworth". the Irish Times.
  27. ^ "Olivier Awards 2018", retrieved 3 June 2019
  28. ^ Fierberg, Ruthie. " 'Tootsie', 'Hadestown', and 'The Ferryman' Lead 2019 Drama Desk Award Winners", Playbill, 2 June 2019
  29. ^ "Jez Butterworth". Archived from the original on 30 October 2016. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  30. ^ Bowie-Sell, Daisy (11 June 2012). "Royal Court announces new play from Jerusalem writer Jez Butterworth". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 23 June 2012.
  31. ^ "the ferryman". Royal Court Theatre. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
  32. ^ "Jez Butterworth". IMDb. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  33. ^ Higgins, Charlotte (11 January 2018). "Giant squid and sexed-up druids: is Britannia Jez Butterworth's mad masterpiece? | Television & radio | The Guardian". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  34. ^ Singh, Anita (7 October 2022). "Mammals, review: James Corden reminds us of his true talents in this superb comedy-drama". The Telegraph. Retrieved 10 November 2022.
  35. ^ ""Spectre" Scribe Jez Butterworth Tapped to Rewrite Emma Stone-Starring "Cruella" for Disney (EXCLUSIVE)". August 2016.
  36. ^ "2017 Results | Critics' Circle Theatre Awards". 31 January 2018. Retrieved 6 December 2020.