Julian Barry

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Julian Barry
Born 1930
Occupation Screenwriter, playwright, author, theatre director
Years active 1956-present
Spouse(s) Sheila Ann Shulman (1955-divorced; 1 child)
Laura Ziskin (1978-divorced; 1 child)

Julian Barry (born 1930) is an American screenwriter and playwright best known for his Oscar-nominated script for the film Lenny about comedian Lenny Bruce, which Barry adapted from his successful Broadway play of the same name. The film, directed by Bob Fosse and starring Dustin Hoffman and Valerie Perrine, was nominated for the so-called Oscar Grand Slam, one of some 40 films to be so honored.

Barry wrote or rewrote screenplays for several notable films including The River starring Mel Gibson and Sissy Spacek, Eyes of Laura Mars starring Faye Dunaway and Tommy Lee Jones, and Rhinoceros, starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, Me, Myself and I, starring George Segal and Jobeth Williams, and the American Playhouse production for PBS A Marriage - Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz starring Christopher Plummer and Jane Alexander. He is also appearing as himself in the film documentary Pablo, about the graphic artist and film director Pablo Ferro.

His autobiography My Night With Orson was published in 2011 and is available on Amazon.

Barry resides in Redding, Connecticut, but is frequently in London for theater work. He is not to be confused with the English singer/songwriter of the same name.

Early life

Barry was born in 1930 and raised in Riverdale, the North Bronx.[1] He played saxophone for his high school band, and traveled to jazz clubs in New York City to hear jazz performed by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane.[2]

After high school, Barry attended Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, where he majored in drama and performed in university productions with comedian Jerry Stiller.[1] During the Korean War he was drafted into the Army and served until 1953.

Early career

Barry was cast in the 1955 Orson Welles production of King Lear at New York City Center theater. He continued working on Broadway as an actor in the musical Shinbone Alley, where he was also stage manager, He also stage managed the Budd Schulberg treatment of The Disenchanted, about the real life adventures of F. Scott Fitzgerald. He stage managed seven other Broadway productions, appearing as an actor in several of them as well, and he worked in the Broadway theatre in this capacity through the mid sixties when he started writing full-time.

In 1969, Barry was hired by Columbia Pictures to write the screenplay for Lenny. The prospects for the project were reportedly harmed by the commercial success of Love Story, having created a demand for romantic films, which Lenny certainly was not. Barry suggested to theatre director Tom O'Horgan, who was fresh from his success with the musical Hair, that the Lenny screenplay be redone as a play and the play was a hit starring Cliff Gorman.

At the 50th Academy Awards in 1974, Lenny was honored with nominations in all five categories that constitute the Oscar Grand Slam, including a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for Barry.[3] He was also nominated that year for a Writers Guild of America Award for Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium, as well as a Jeff Award for his directorial efforts on the Lenny stage show in Chicago.[4]

In 1983, Barry wrote the book for Jean Seberg, a musical biography of the American actress and political activist who committed suicide in Paris in 1979. The production was directed by Peter Hall at the National Theatre of Britain with music by Marvin Hamlisch. Later he co-authored an opera with Peter Hall, Born Again at the Chichester Festival Theatre in England starring Mandy Patinkin and José Ferrer.

Barry continues to enjoy considerable success and is able to be selective about the projects on which he works. He ventured back into opera writing the libretto for Zyklon, an opera about the life of German-Jewish scientist Fritz Haber. The music was composed by the British composer Peter King.

Personal life

Barry was divorced from the film producer Laura Ziskin who died in 2011. They have a daughter Julia who was born in 1983. Three children from a previous marriage all reside in New England.

An enthusiastic jazz trumpet player, Barry plays with a band in his town of Redding, Connecticut, where he has resided since 2001. Considering himself more or less "retired" he still continues to write.

Selected works

  • Me, Myself and I (screenplay)
  • A Marriage: Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz (screenplay)
  • The River (screenplay)
  • Eyes of Laura Mars (screenplay)
  • Lenny (play, screenplay)
  • Rhinoceros (play, screenplay)
  • Zyklon (opera, libretto)

Other works

Awards and nominations

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Stiller, Jerry (2000). Married to Laughter: A Love Story Featuring Anne Meara. New York City, New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 78. ISBN 0-7432-1146-4. Retrieved 2009-12-27. 
  2. Pleasants, Ben (2009-03-14). "Unleashing O’Casey: Julian Barry, Lenny Bruce & American tragedy". 3:AM Magazine. Archived from the original on 2010-01-10. Retrieved 2009-12-26. 
  3. "Lenny". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved 2009-12-26. 
  4. "Julian Barry". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved 2009-12-26. 

External links