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Tuesday, 25 September, 2001, 16:02 GMT 17:02 UK
Leading roles of Hytner's career
Hytner takes over one of the most prestigious jobs in UK theatre
Hytner takes over one of the most prestigious jobs in UK theatre
When Trevor Nunn announced in April that he was to step down as director of the Royal National Theatre, Nicholas Hytner was caught in a dilemma.

Hytner, 45, has had success as a stage and film director, but has never run a venue or dealt with the management, planning and PR challenges involved.

Although the National job is one of the arts world's most prestigious positions, it can also be a poisoned chalice.

Trevor Nunn
Trevor Nunn: Term was due to end in September 2002
The state-funded complex is criticised if it is not at the forefront of what the nation wants, or should be seeing - and those challenges are amplified by the public spotlight.

Hytner had even said Billy Elliott director Stephen Daldry should get the job because he was best qualified.

But Daldry and another much-tipped name, Sam Mendes, both dropped out in August, leaving Hytner at the top of the shortlist.

Hytner's directing instincts were nurtured at Cambridge University, where he studied English and took part in amateur shows.

After Cambridge, he worked as a director in Exeter, Chichester and at the Leeds Playhouse before becoming associate director of the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre in 1985.

Hytner has won two Olivier Awards
Hytner has won two Olivier Awards
Work there was impressive enough to land him assignments with the Royal Shakespeare Company and at the National, and his successes have included Miss Saigon, Twelfth Night, Carousel and The Magic Flute.

He has won two Oliver Awards, two Evening Standard Awards, the London Critics Circle Award, a Drama Desk Award and a Tony.

After directing Alan Bennett's The Madness of George III at the National, he found himself in Hollywood when the story was adapted for the big screen.

Bennett laid down the condition that the National combination of Hytner and actor Nigel Hawthorne must not be split up.

Despite admitting that he did not know anything about the film process, The Madness of King George earned Hytner a Bafta nomination for Best Director, a nomination for the Palme d'Or at Cannes and the Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film.

It also marked him out as a hot new talent on the Hollywood circuit.

Stephen Daldry preferred to focus on film
Stephen Daldry preferred to focus on film
But his following three feature films, including The Crucible, starring Winona Ryder and Daniel Day-Lewis, were seen as disappointments.

He now says he "can't be doing with" Hollywood any more.

Daldry and Mendes have both decided to concentrate on their film careers - and it was their experience in running venues that had marked them out as favourites in the selection process.

In a public poll, Daldry was favoured by 45%, while Hytner got just 7%.

And Hyntner's latest production, Mother Clap's Molly House, at the National, received mixed reviews and was seen by some as a slip of judgement that could - and should - have harmed his chances for the job.

The BBC's Neil Smith described it as "banal and juvenile", and said: "If this is his audition piece, he needn't bother turning up for the interview."

But the National's board were won by his passion and vision, and he will begin his five-year term when Nunn leaves in April 2003.

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