John Madden
Birth Date:
April 8, 1949
Birth Place:
Portsmouth, Hampshire, England, UK
6' 2" (1.88 m)
Famous for:
Director of the Oscar-winning 'Shakespeare in Love' (1998)
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Shakespeare in Love


“You can't take Shakespeare himself too seriously, even when you're making a film called ‘Shakespeare in Love.’ For one, we don't even know who he was, really, and for another, if you made a rollicking romantic comedy during which you acted as though he were this untouchable icon, the whole project would be pretty well stillborn. So we treat Shakespeare himself fairly lightly, as a person. But the work, that we take very seriously indeed.” John Madded (on “Shakespeare in Love”)

Academy award nominated British director of film, TV, theater and radio John Madden started his directing career in the English theater and later moved to the BBC to work in TV and radio before finally emerging as a filmmaker in 1993 with the based-on-book “Ethan Frome,” a blockbuster disappointment that established Madden as a qualified storyteller. Following a success on the small screen, where he picked up a Scottish BAFTA Award and a San Francisco International Film Festival Award for directing the made-for-TV crime/thriller “Truth or Dare” (1996), the director enjoyed a critical hit with the 1997 costume drama “Mrs. Brown,” which garnered two Oscar nominations. He did not explode into the Hollywood A-list until he helmed the massive box office smash “Shakespeare in Love” (1998), starring Gwyneth Paltrow. The film won seven Oscars and brought Madden his Best Director nomination, a ShoWest Award and a San Diego Film Critics Society Award. His next project, “Captain Corelli's Mandolin” (2001), a wartime melodrama starring Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz, was a critical and commercial failure. Madden was put back in the spotlight with the successful 2005 film version of David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Proof,” also starring Paltrow. His latest film is “Killshot” (2008), an action/drama starring Diana Lane and Mickey Rourke.

Madden and his wife Penny have two children, Emma and Oliver.

Father of 2

Childhood and Family:

John Philip Madden was born on April 8, 1949, in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England. He was educated at Clifton College in Britol and then at the University of Cambridge (Sidney Sussex), from which he earned a B.A in English Literature in 1970. He moved to America in 1975, but later returned to England after the failure of 1994's “Golden Gate.”

John is married to Penny Madden. They have two children, daughter Emma and son Oliver (born in 1977).



John Madden began his career as an artistic director for the Oxford and Cambridge Shakespeare Company before joining BBC in 1973. Two years later, he made his way to the United States of America to develop a radio dramatic series called “Ear,” a project of the National Public Radio. He went on to make the Arnold Kopit radio drama “Wings,” which won the Prix Italia, and subsequently directed the play for the stage at Yale, NYC's Public Theatre, the National Theater at London, and Broadway. He also helmed the original Broadway productions of Christopher Durang's “Beyond Therapy” (1982) and Jules Feiffer's “Grown-Ups” (1981-1982), as well as many plays for the Mark Taper Forum and the New York Shakespeare Festival. He also found time to teach acting and playwright programs at the Yale School of Drama.

Madden made his U.S. TV directing debut in 1983 with the TV version of “Wings,” which was broadcast on PBS. He also helmed the small screen adaptation of “Grown-Ups” in 1985 (Showtime), two episodes of “The Return of Sherlock Holmes, Series I” (PBS) in 1986 and in 1992 and the PBS “Masterpiece Theatre” presentation “A Wreath of Roses” in 1989. He also directed five parts of the noted British 10-part series “After the War” (broadcast on PBS in 1990) and episodes of “Inspector Morse” (1990-1995). Other TV credits included the television movie “The Widowmaker” (1990), starring Annabelle Apsion, Alun Armstrong and David Morrissey, and the miniseries “Jim Henson's' The Storyteller: Greek Myths'” (also 1990), starring Michael Gambon.

Madden eventually made his feature directorial debut with 1993's “Ethan Frome,” a drama starring Liam Nelson, Gil Road and Patricia Arquette which was not a box office success. Based on the Edith Wharton novel, the film was praised for its accuracy to the book and its plain confined locations. The follow-up, “Golden Gate” (1994), written by playwright David Henry Hwang and starring Matt Dillon and Joan Chen, soon followed. Back to London after the failure of his second feature, Madden revisited TV and cast Helen Mirren and Beatie Edney in the 1995 drama “Prime Suspect: The Lost Child.” The next year, he won a Scottish BAFTA for Best Single Drama and a Certificate of Merit at the 1997 San Francisco International Film Festival for his work in the British crime/thriller “Truth or Dare.”

1997 saw Madden make a jubilant comeback to the big screen with the biopic film “Mrs. Brown,” which was based on the relationship of England's Queen Victoria (played by Judi Dench) and a Scottish Highlander (played by Billy Connolly). Considered his best film to date, “Mrs. Brown” won extensive critical praise and nabbed two Academy Award nominations, including a Best Actress for Dench. Madden furthered confirmed he was on a roll with his box office hit “Shakespeare in Love,” which premiered in New York City on December 3, 1998. Starring Joseph Fiennes in the title role and Gwyneth Paltrow as Viola De Lesseps, the comedy movie picked up seven Oscars and countless other awards

Following the success, Madden replaced an ailing Roger Michell at the helm of “Captain Corelli's Mandolin” (2001), based on the well-liked wartime romance novel by Louis de Bernières. The film, which starred Nicolas Cage as an Italian-American solider and Penelope Cruz as a Greek villager, proved to be a miserable adaptation. About Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Madden said, “The film is about a collision of cultures and the story is about a collision of cultures. You obviously have to make a choice about how you're going to deal with a story that deals with three different nationalities. Once I'd made the decision that it was all going to be spoken in accented English, it didn't seem to be an issue. It seemed to echo what was going on in the film.”

In 2002, Madden reunited with Gwenyth Paltrow for the London premiere of David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Proof.” Initially balking when approached to direct a feature version, Madden eventually took on the duty and hired Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, Hope Davis and Jake Gyllenhaal for the critically loved 2005 movie. “Proof” was nominated for a Golden Lion at the 2005 Venice Film Festival and a Grand Prix at the Flanders International Film Festival.

Currently, Madden has completed directing the based-on-novel action/drama film “Killshot” (2008), which stars Diana Lane and Mickey Rourke as Carmen Colson and an experienced hit man, respectively.


  • Bermuda International Film Festival: Prospero Award, 2001

  • Czech Lions: Czech Lion, Best Foreign Language Film (Nejlepsí zahranicní film), “Shakespeare in Love.” 2000

  • Kinema Junpo: Best Foreign Language Film, “Shakespeare in Love,” 2000

  • Kinema Junpo: Readers' Choice, Best Foreign Language Film, “Shakespeare in Love, “ 2000

  • Mainichi Film Concours: Best Foreign Language Film, “Shakespeare in Love,” 2000

  • Hochi Film: Best Foreign Language Film, “Shakespeare in Love,” 1999

  • ShoWest Convention: Director of the Year, 1999

  • San Diego Film Critics Society: Best Director, “Shakespeare in Love,” 1998

  • BAFTA (Scotland): Best Single Drama, “Truth or Dare,” 1997

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