Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay created and wrote every episode of the acclaimed BBC political comedy series Yes Minister (1980) and Yes, Prime Minister (1986). The series received numerous accolades including three BAFTA (British Academy) Awards, two Broadcasting Press Guild Awards and two Pye Television Writers Awards. It also won four BAFTA Awards for the star, Nigel Hawthorne. Lynn also won the BAFTA (British Academy) Writers Award. In the US he won the ACE Award for Best Written Comedy Series on cable television, having also been nominated the previous year. In addition, for “Yes, Minister” Lynn was given a Special Award from the Campaign For Freedom Of Information. He wrote three best-selling books, “The Complete Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister, Volumes 1 and 2” based on the series. All went to #1 on the London Sunday Times best-seller list. Between them they have sold over a million copies in hardback, were in the top ten best-sellers for three years and have been translated into numerous languages. “The Complete Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister, Volume 2” were the 2nd and 3rd British best-sellers of the decade, 1980-1989.
Lynn directed the film My Cousin Vinny (1992), a critical and commercial hit in 1992. Marisa Tomei, discovered in this film, won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Lynn’s 1990 film Nuns on the Run (1990), which he also wrote, was a hilarious romp through the landscape of the church, starring Eric Idle and Robbie Coltrane. It won the Golden Cane Award at the Festival de Comedie in Switzerland. His film The Distinguished Gentleman (1992), starring Eddie Murphy, was about the corrupting power of lobbyists in Washington, DC, and exposed the need for campaign finance reform. Virtually everything in the film has since come true, and nine years after the release of the film it won a Special Award from the Political Film Society. It also won the Environmental Media Award. His other films are Clue (1985), Greedy (1994)starring Michael J. Fox and Kirk Douglas, Sgt. Bilko (1996) starring Steve Martin and Trial and Error (1997), which was favorably compared by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert to a Billy Wilder movie. He also directed The Whole Nine Yards (2000), a hit comedy with Bruce Willis, Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet Natasha Henstridge, which was #1 at the US box office for three weeks. He also directed the hit comedy The Fighting Temptations (2003) for Paramount and MTV.
Born in Bath, England, Lynn has an MA in Law from Cambridge University. He never practiced law, but joined a theatre orchestra in London’s West End. His first credit as a writer was The Internecine Project (1974) starring James Coburn. His first novel, “A Proper Man” was published in 1976 and “Mayday”, his second novel, came out in 1993 (Viking/Penguin). In the same year he wrote the British television film Life After Life (1992).
He wrote his first two films, “Clue” and “Nuns On The Run”, did an uncredited re-write on “My Cousin Vinny” and has completed a screenplay based on his novel “Mayday”. His stage play “Collaborators” was produced in London’s West End.
Lynn has also enjoyed notable success on the British stage. In 1987 he directed his own company at the National Theatre of Great Britain, eventually moving his centenary production of George Abbott’s “Three Men On A Horse” to the West End. Once there, it won the Olivier Award for Best Comedy. His 1979 musical “Songbook” won the Society Of West End Theatres Award and the Evening Standard Award for Best Musical. From 1977 to 1981 Lynn served as Artistic Director of The Cambridge Theatre Company, where he produced more than forty plays, directing twenty of them himself including a “Macbeth” with Brian Cox that toured both the UK and India, playing a special performance for the Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi.
Other notable London productions include Georges Feydeau’s “A Little Hotel On The Side” at the National Theatre, translated by John Mortimer, “The Glass Menagerie” (working with Tennessee Williams), George Bernard Shaw’s “Arms And The Man.”, Eric Idle’s “Pass The Butler”, Joe Orton’s “Loot” with ‘Leonard Rossiter’ and Eugene O’Neill’s “Anna Christie” at the Royal Shakespeare Company, in Stratford and London.
An accomplished actor, Lynn began his career at the age of 21 on Broadway, in the revue “Cambridge Circus”, with John Cleese and Graham Chapman. His TV debut came on The Ed Sullivan Show (1948) in 1964. Returning to England, he was nominated Most Promising New Actor in the Plays And Players Awards for his first West End performance, in “Green Julia” (1965). He played leading roles in many British television films, including Jack Rosenthal’s ‘Bar Mitzvah Boy’ (1976) (TV) and ‘The Knowledge’ (1981) (TV), ‘Outside Edge’ (1982) (TV) and starred in the series Doctor in the House (1969) and My Brother’s Keeper (1975), which he also wrote.
His stage performances range from playing Adolf Hitler in the comedy “The Changing Years” at the Royal Court Theatre to Motel The Tailor in the original London cast of “Fiddler On The Roof”. His film performances include cameos in Into the Night (1985), Three Men and a Little Lady (1990) and playing Kirk Douglas’ butler in his own film Greedy (1994).
Lynn has an Honorary M.A. from the University of Sheffield and an Honorary Psy.D. from the American Behavioral Studies Institute. He lives in New York.
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