Peter Brook, two-time Tony winner, Emmy winner, Olivier Award winner and recipient of distinguished honors for his contributions to the arts of Britain, France, Spain, India and the United States, died Saturday in Paris, as confirmed by his deputy. Brook was known for his sweeping adaptations of Shakespeare, his theater treatise empty spaceEnglish production of Marat/Sadedirecting the film version of lord of the fliesand the nine-hour adaptation (more with breaks!) of the Sanskrit epic mahabharata. He was 97 years old.
The London-born, Paris-based director was described as “an almost mystical figure often mentioned in the same breath as Konstantin Stanislavsky”, in an obituary by France Media Agency. He collaborated with iconic artists like Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Paul Scofield, John Gielgud and Glenda Jackson. He also worked with Ben Kingley and patrick stuart early in their career and Helen Mirren joined its International Center for Theater Research in Paris in the early 1970s.
The son of Latvian Jewish immigrants in London, Brook was a prodigy, making his professional debut aged 17, a production of Doctor Faust in 1943. From 1947 to 1950 he was director of productions at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. A production of Salome featured scenography by Salvador Dalí. He then conducted operas for the Metropolitan Opera and the Festival d’Aix en Provence.
In 1953, he directed his first film, The Beggar’s Opera, a Technicolor musical based on John Gay’s 18th century opera. It starred Laurence Olivier, Stanley Holloway and Dorothy Tutin. In 1960, he directed the French drama Seven days… Seven nights, for which Jeanne Moreau won the prize for female interpretation at the Cannes Film Festival, opposite Jean-Paul Belmondo. In 1963, he directed what is probably his most enduring film, the adaptation of William Golding’s noir novel, shot on location in Puerto Rico.
In 1964, however, his play-in-play adaptation Marat/Sade has become a sensation. British furor over ‘dirt’ read a title The New York Times regarding its premiere in a season that also included Joe Orton Entertaining Mr. Sloane. The production came to New York (starring Glenda Jackson, Ian Richardson and Patrick Magee) and won the Tony Award for Best Play as well as Best Director for Brook. (He had previously been nominated to direct Seal of Elizabeth in Irma the sweetand Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt in Visit.)
Brook directed a film version of Marat/Sade (a project that, if you ever wanted to conquer a trivia night at a theatrical bar, goes by the full title of The persecution and assassination of Jean-Paul Marat interpreted by the detainees of the Charenton asylum under the direction of the Marquis de Sade) in 1967.