Page last updated at 10:25 GMT, Friday, 26 December 2008

Stars mourning playwright Pinter

Harold Pinter speaking in 2005 about winning the Nobel prize

Stars have been paying tribute to Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter, following his death from cancer.

Former actress Glenda Jackson said his death was "a great loss not only to the theatre but... also a great loss to people who fight for human rights".

The 78-year-old wrote more than 30 plays including The Caretaker and The Birthday Party. His film scripts included The French Lieutenant's Woman.

Ex-MP Tony Benn said Pinter had been "a great figure on the political scene".

Pinter's wife, Lady Antonia Fraser, said: "He was a great and it was a privilege to live with him for over 33 years."

He was a unique figure in British theatre. He has dominated the theatre scene since the 1950s
Alan Yentob, BBC Creative Director

He had been due to pick up an honorary degree earlier this month from the Central School of Speech and Drama in London but was forced to withdraw because of illness.

His style was so distinctive, "Pinteresque" entered the Oxford English Dictionary.

Sir Michael Gambon, who appeared in many of Pinter's plays, told the Guardian: "He was our God, Harold Pinter, for actors.

"He was the man who wrote the plays you wanted to be in."

Pinter was also an actor, poet, screenwriter and director.

He was known for his left-wing political views and was an outspoken critic of US and UK foreign policy.

Pinter won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005 and the citation said "in his plays he uncovers the precipice in everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms".

BBC Creative Director Alan Yentob said: "He was a unique figure in British theatre. He has dominated the theatre scene since the 1950s."

Pinter was born in Hackney, in London's East End in 1930.

He was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus in 2002 and following treatment had announced that he was on the road to recovery.

Three years later, he announced that he had given up writing for the theatre in order to concentrate on political work.

A production of No Man's Land, starring Sir Michael Gambon, David Walliams, David Bradley and Nick Dunning, is running at the Duke of York's theatre in London.

A new version of Mark Lawson's extended 2005 interview with Harold Pinter will be broadcast on Radio 4 on Friday at 1915 GMT.



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