John Hopkins

Screenwriter, Playwright, Director
As writer of the realistic police drama "Z Cars" (BBC), a forerunner of gritty, realistic TV shows, John Hopkins earned both popular and critical acclaim. A prolific screenwriter and playwright, he studied literature at ... Read more »
Born: 01/27/1931 in London, England, GB


Writer (12)

Runaway Dreams 1988 (Movie)


The Holcroft Covenant 1985 (Movie)


The Power 1984 (Movie)

(From Story)

Murder By Decree 1979 (Movie)


The Offence 1972 (Movie)


The Virgin Soldiers 1970 (Movie)


Thunderball 1965 (Movie)


Codename: Kyril (TV Show)


Divorce His/Divorce Hers (TV Show)


Hiroshima (TV Show)


Smiley's People (TV Show)


Stranger in Town (Movie)

Producer (1)

Stranger in Town (Movie)



As writer of the realistic police drama "Z Cars" (BBC), a forerunner of gritty, realistic TV shows, John Hopkins earned both popular and critical acclaim. A prolific screenwriter and playwright, he studied literature at Cambridge before being introduced into show business by his then father-in-law, author Nigel Balchin, who approached him to adapt his novel "A Small Back Room" for the small screen. While an adept writer, Hopkins lacked the drive to produce much material. This changed in 1962 when he was offered "Z Cars", where he faced the deadlines and pressure that forced him to deliver. Hopkins wrote fifty-seven episodes of the series, while also writing screenplays for films such as the 1965 James Bond hit "Thunderball", doing other TV work, and simultaneously writing stage plays.

In 1966, BBC-2 aired the four-part "Talking to a Stranger", comprised of four interrelated dramas centering around one crisis and how four family members experience and respond to it. Hopkins was named the year's Best Television Writer by the British Guild of Television Producers and Directors while star Judi Dench was named Best Actress. In 1967, while discussing the plans for an American remake with producer David Susskind, Hopkins met his future wife Shirley Knight, who had been picked to play the Judi Dench role of Terry, the rootless daughter estranged from her family. After he and Knight wed in 1972, they settled in the USA Knight went on to appear in such Hopkins' plays "Absent Forever" and "Losing Time", both stories of women facing loss and their persevering strength.

In addition to "Thunderball", Hopkins penned "The Offense" (1973), a Sidney Lumet-directed drama co-starring Sean Connery and Trevor Howard, and "The Virgin Soldiers", a 1969 war comedy starring Lynn Redgrave. His historical mystery "Murder By Decree" (1979), starring Christopher Plummer and James Mason as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson investigating the murders of Jack the Ripper was acclaimed by many as one of the best modern-day takes on the fictional detective. In addition, Hopkins wrote the screenplay for John Frankenheimer's thriller "The Holcroft Covenant" (1985) and both wrote and directed the psychological drama "Torment" (1986),

An uncompromising playwright, Hopkins' dramas were often more controversial than his film and television work. His first play, "This Story of Yours", was met with some criticism when it was produced in 1968 at the Royal Court in London. This story of a police sergeant's moral downfall was considered by some critics to be too brutal, noting a scene in which the protagonist murders a suspect charged with raping a child. Hopkins followed in 1970 with "Find Your Way Home", a triangular drama about a man who leaves his wife for another man, and "Next of Kin" (1974).

For American TV, Hopkins scripted the 1973 ABC miniseries "Divorce His, Divorce Hers" which was more notable for the small screen pairing of screen legends Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. He scored a triumph adapting the John Le Carre spy novel "Smiley's People" as a 1980 BBC miniseries starring Alec Guinness and again in 1996 with his award-winning teleplay "Hiroshima" (Showtime), a docudrama chronicling the events leading up to the bombing of Japan by United States forces that was a strong and insightful telling of the story, from both an American and Japanese point of view. Before his untimely death, Hopkins had completed a trilogy "The Mary Plays", about the mother of Jesus. Shirley Knight was set to play Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist.


Prudence Balchin

daughter of novelist Nigel Balchin mother of Hopkins son and daughter Justine divorced

Justine Hopkins

mother, Prudence Balchin survived him

Sophie Hopkins

mother, Shirley Knight survived him

Kaitlin Hopkins

mother, Shirley Knight survived him

Arthur Hopkins

survived him

Shirley Knight

married in 1972 mother of Sophie Hopkins survived him


St Catharine's College, University of Cambridge

Raynes Park Grammar School



Won the Humanitas Award and a PEN Center West literary award for the screenplay "Hiroshima", a docudrama chronicling the events leading up to the atomic bomb attack on Japan aired on the Showtime cable network


Directed and wrote the psychodrama "Torment"


Wrote the screenplay for the John Frankenheimer thriller "The Holcroft Covenant", starring Michael Caine


Adapted John LeCarre's novel "Smiley's People" for the BBC as a miniseries starring Alec Guinness


Wrote the screenplay for the Sherlock Holmes/Jack the Ripper film "Murder By Decree", starring Christopher Plummer and James Mason


His play "Losing Time" is produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club starring wife Shirley Knight


"Find Your Way Home" produced at Broadway's Brooks Atkinson Theatre, starring Michael Moriarty


"Next of Kin" played the National Theatre, London


Scripted the ABC TV-movie "Divorce His/Divorce Hers", starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton


Wrote the screenplay for "The Offense", a Sidney Lumet drama starring Sean Connery and Trevor Howard


Married actress Shirley Knight; moved to the USA


Play "Find Your Way Home" played at Open Space, London


Wrote the screenplay for "The Virgin Soldiers", a war comedy starring Lynn Redgrave


His first play "This Story of Yours", dealing with the moral downfall of a police sergeant, was performed in London at the Royal Court


Met future wife Shirley Knight at a meeting discussing an American remake of his quartet of plays "Talking to a Stranger"


BBC-2 aired his four part award-winning drama "Talking to a Stranger" starring Judi Dench


Wrote the screenplay for the James Bond film "Thunderball" along with Richard Maibaum


Wrote fifty-seven episodes of the realistic police drama "Z Cars" (BBC)

Got start when father-in-law, author Nigel Balchin asked him to adapt his novel "A Small Back Room" for television