AT 41, Florian Zeller has already had a glittering career, described as a “genius” by Le Figaro and “the most exciting new theatre writer of our time” by The Guardian.

His plays have been staged in more countries than any French writer of his generation, and now with an Oscar for his first film The Father, he looks set for still greater success.

On Sunday, he won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay for the film, while Anthony Hopkins took home the best actor award for his performance as an elderly man suffering dementia.

In Britain, he is likened to one of his heroes, Harold Pinter, and in France to the most fabled of his predecessors.

“He is a child of Moliere,” said French actor Pierre Arditi, who appeared in two of Zeller’s plays, The Truth and The Lie.

“When we read his plays, we think that it’s simple but it’s much more complex, and that is what defines a great writer... He’s a young surgeon of the human soul.” Already a household name in France thanks to a series of novels, the first published when he was just 22, Zeller fell in love with theatre after iconic French author Francoise Sagan recommended him to a director.

“The French stage was a marvellous destination and a dream,” he said in a recent interview. “But it was when my plays were staged in London and had a big success, with three at the same time... that’s when they started being picked up in Asia, Latin America and the US.” They have now been performed in more than 40 countries, and won awards from Tokyo to New York.

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2021

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