Page last updated at 09:16 GMT, Thursday, 24 September 2009 10:16 UK

Japanese arts honour for Stoppard

Sir Tom Stoppard
Playwright Stoppard fled the former Czechoslovakia as a young boy

British playwright Sir Tom Stoppard has been named as one of the winners of a major international arts prize.

The writer, whose works include his breakthrough 1967 play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, is one of five winners of the Praemium Imperiale.

Awarded by the Japan Art Association, the prize honours cultural excellence in painting, sculpture, theatre and film, architecture and music.

British-based winners include sculptor Richard Long and architect Zaha Hadid.

Oscar winner

Czech-born pianist Alfred Brendel, this year's music Laureate, is also a UK resident, while the award for painting was won by Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Brendel, 78, gave his final public performances in Vienna at the end of last year, following 60 years as a concert pianist.

Stoppard's broad spectrum of work includes plays critically-acclaimed plays Arcadia and The Real Thing and screenplays for the hit films Empire of the Sun and Shakespeare in Love - for which he won an Oscar in 1999.

"At the beginning I felt I had to know a great deal about what I was going to be writing," said Sir Tom.

"It took a long time to become aware that it as really better not to know too much, because it left many more avenues open..."

The Czech-born playwright was knighted in 1997. His most recent work includes the stage plays Rock 'n' Roll and The Coast of Utopia, a nine-hour trilogy which won a record-breaking seven Tony awards in 2007.

This year's Praemium Imperiale awards will be handed out by Japan's Prince Hitachi at a ceremony in Japan on 22 October.

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