Harold Pinter, CH, CBE, Nobel Laureate (born 10 October 1930), is a world-renowned English playwright, screenwriter, actor, director, poet, and political activist. After publishing poetry as a teenager and acting in school plays, Pinter began his theatrical career in the mid-1950s as a rep actor using the stage name David Baron. During a writing career spanning over half a century, beginning with his first play, The Room (1957), Pinter has written 29 stage plays; 26 screenplays; many dramatic sketches, radio and TV plays; poetry; some short fiction; a novel; and essays, speeches, and letters. He is best known as a playwright and screenwriter, especially for The Birthday Party (1957), The Caretaker (1959), The Homecoming (1964), and Betrayal (1978), all of which he has adapted to film, and for his screenplay adaptations of others' works, such as The Servant (1963), The Go-Between (1970), The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981), The Trial (1993), and Sleuth (2007). He has also directed almost 50 stage, TV, and film productions of his own and others' works. Despite frail health since 2001, he has continued to act on stage and screen, most recently in the October 2006 critically-acclaimed production of Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape, during the 50th anniversary season of the Royal Court. He also continues to write (mostly poetry), to give interviews, and to speak about political issues.
Pinter's dramas often involve strong conflicts among ambivalent characters fighting for verbal and territorial dominance and for their own remembered versions of the past; stylistically, they are marked by theatrical pauses and silences, comedic timing, provocative imagery, witty dialogue, ambiguity, irony, and menace ("Biobibliographical Notes"). Thematically ambiguous, they raise complex issues of individual human identity oppressed by social forces, the power of language, and vicissitudes of memory. Like his work, Pinter has been considered complex and contradictory (Billington, Harold Pinter 388).
Although Pinter publicly eschewed applying the term "political theatre" to his own work in 1981, he began writing overtly political plays in the mid-'80s, reflecting his own heightening political interests and changes in his personal life. This "new direction" in his work and his "Leftist" political activism stimulated additional critical debate about Pinter's politics. Pinter, his work, and his politics have been the subject of voluminous critical commentary ("Biobibliographical Notes"; Merritt, Pinter in Play; Grimes).
Pinter is the recipient of eighteen honorary degrees and numerous other honors and awards, including the Nobel Prize in Literature and the French Légion d'honneur. Academic institutions and performing arts organizations have devoted symposia, festivals, and celebrations to honoring him and his work, in recognition of his cultural influence and achievements across genres and media. In awarding Pinter the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005, instigating some public controversy and criticism, the Swedish Academy cited him for being "generally regarded as the foremost representative of British drama in the second half of the 20th century."
Other main loves or interests that he has mentioned to Gussow, Billington, and other interviewers (in varying order of priority) are family, love (of women) and sex, drinking, writing, and reading (e.g., Gussow, Conversations with Pinter 25–30; Billington, Harold Pinter 7–16; Merritt, Pinter in Play 194). According to Billington, "If the notion of male loyalty, competitive rivalry and fear of betrayal forms a constant thread in Pinter's work from The Dwarfs onwards, its origins can be found in his teenage Hackney years. Pinter adores women, enjoys flirting with them, worships their resilience and strength. But, in his early work especially, they are often seen as disruptive influences on some pure, Platonic ideal of male friendship: one of the most crucial of all Pinter's lost Edens" (Harold Pinter 10–12; cf. Woolf).
In Pinter: The Player's Playwright, David Thompson "itemises all the performances Pinter gave in the [David] Baron years," including those in English regional repertory companies, nearly twenty-five roles (Cited in Billington, Harold Pinter 49–55). In October 1989, Pinter told Mel Gussow: "I was in English rep as an actor for about 12 years. My favourite roles were undoubtedly the sinister ones. They're something to get your teeth into" (Conversations with Pinter 83). During that period, he also performed occasional roles in his own and others' works (for radio, TV, and film), as he has done more recently (Billington, Harold Pinter 20–25; 31, 36, 38).
Unable to overcome her bitterness and grief at the loss of her husband, Vivien Merchant died of acute alcoholism in the first week of October 1982 at the age of 53 (Billington, Harold Pinter 276). According to Billington, who cites Merchant's close friends and Pinter's associates, Pinter "did everything possible to support" her until her death and regrets that he became estranged from their son, Daniel, after their separation and Pinter's remarriage (276, 345). A reclusive gifted musician and writer (345), Daniel no longer uses the surname Pinter, having adopted instead "his maternal grandmother's maiden name," Brand, after his parents separated (255). "His efforts to reach out … rebuffed," Pinter has not spoken with him since 1993; " 'There it is,' he said" (Lyall, "Still Pinteresque").Personal feelings Billington observes that "Pinter's new life with Antonia … obviously released something that had long been dormant: a preoccupation with the injustices and hypocrisies of the public world"; yet, his "sorrow, and even residual guilt, over Vivien's death" still seems to have resulted in "Pinter's creative blankness over a three-year period in the early 1980s" (Harold Pinter 278). Since Pinter "loves children and … would have liked a large family of his own, the progressive separation from Daniel is obviously a source of anguish" which Billington speculates is "reflected in Moonlight" (written in 1993, the year that Pinter and his son mutually decided to cease contact), "not only in Andy's cry of 'Where are the boys?' but in his final sad enquiries after his imagined grandchildren," though Pinter disavowed any conscious connection (346).
Pinter has stated publicly in interviews that he remains "very happy" in his second marriage and enjoys family life, which includes his six adult stepchildren and 17 step-grandchildren (Billington, Harold Pinter 388, 429–30; Dougary), and, after vanquishing cancer, considers himself "a very lucky man in every respect" (Quoted in Wark; Billington, " 'They said' "). According to Lyall, who interviewed him in London for her Sunday New York Times preview of Sleuth, Pinter's "latest work, a slim pamphlet called 'Six Poems for A.,' comprises poems written over 32 years, with 'A' being Lady Antonia. The first of the poems was written in Paris, where she and Mr. Pinter traveled soon after they met. More than three decades later the two are rarely apart, and Mr. Pinter turns soft, even cozy, when he talks about his wife" ("Still Pinteresque" 16). In his interview with Lyall, Pinter "acknowledged that his plays––full of infidelity, cruelty, inhumanity, the lot––seem at odds with his domestic contentment. 'How can you write a happy play?' he said. 'Drama is about conflict and degrees of perturbation, disarray. I've never been able to write a happy play, but I've been able to enjoy a happy life' " ("Still Pinteresque" 16).
In a review published in 1958, borrowing from the subtitle of The Lunatic View: A Comedy of Menace, a play by David Campton (1924–2006), critic Irving Wardle called Pinter's early plays "comedy of menace"—a label that people have applied repeatedly to his work, at times "pigeonholing" and attempting to "tame" it. Such plays begin with an apparently innocent situation that becomes both threatening and "absurd" as Pinter's characters behave in ways often perceived as inexplicable by his audiences and one another. Pinter acknowledges the influence of Samuel Beckett, particularly on his early work (Billington, Harold Pinter 64, 65, 84, 197, 251); they became friends (354), sending each other drafts of their works in progress for comments (Wark).
After the success of The Caretaker in 1960, which established Pinter's theatrical reputation (Jones), The Birthday Party was revived both on television (with Pinter himself in the role of Goldberg) and on stage and well received. By the time Peter Hall's production of The Homecoming (1964) reached New York (1967), Harold Pinter had become a celebrity playwright, and the play garnered four Tony awards, among other awards ("Harold Pinter" at the Internet Broadway Database)."Memory plays" From the late sixties through the early eighties, Pinter wrote Landscape (1968), Silence (1969), "Night" (1969), Old Times (1971), No Man's Land (1975), The Proust Screenplay(1977), Betrayal (1978), Family Voices (1981), and A Kind of Alaska (1982), all of which dramatize complex ambiguities, elegaic mysteries, comic vagaries, and other "quicksand"-like characteristics of memory and which critics sometimes categorize as Pinter's "memory plays".
Pinter's more-recent plays Party Time (1991), Moonlight (1993), Ashes to Ashes (1996), and Celebration (2000) draw upon some features of his "memory" dramaturgy in their focus on the past in the present, but they have personal and political resonances and other tonal differences from these more-clearly-identifiable "memory plays" (Billington, Harold Pinter; Batty; Grimes).Pinter as director Pinter began to direct more frequently during the 1970s, becoming an associate director of the National Theatre (NT) in 1973, and he has directed almost fifty productions of his own and others' plays for stage, film, and television. As a director, Pinter has helmed productions of work by Simon Gray ten times, including directing the stage premières of Butley (1971), Otherwise Engaged (1975), The Rear Column (stage 1978; TV, 1980), Close of Play (NT, 1979), Quartermaine's Terms (1981), Life Support (1997), The Late Middle Classes (1999), and The Old Masters (2004), and the film, Butley (1974), several of which starred Alan Bates (1934–2003), who originated (on stage and screen) the role of Mick in Pinter's first commercial success, The Caretaker (1960), and played the roles of Nicholas in One for the Road and the cab driver in Victoria Station in Pinter's own double-bill production at the Lyric Hammersmith in 1984.Pinter's overtly political plays During the 1980s, after the three-year period of "creative blankness in the early 1980s" following his marriage to Lady Antonia Fraser and the death of Vivien Merchant, as mentioned by Billington (Harold Pinter 258), Pinter's plays tended to become shorter and more overtly political, serving as critiques of oppression, torture, and other abuses of human rights (Merritt, Pinter in Play xi–xv, 170–209, Grimes 19), linked by the apparent "invulnerability of power" (Grimes 119). After writing the brief dramatic sketch Precisely (1983), a duologue between two bureaucrats exposing the absurd power politics of mutual nuclear annihilation and deterrence, he wrote his first full-length overtly-political one-act play, One for the Road (1984). In a 1985 interview called "A Play and Its Politics", with Nicholas Hern, published in the Grove Press edition of One for the Road, Pinter states that whereas his earlier plays presented "metaphors" for power and powerlessness, the later ones present literal "realities" of power and its abuse. Grimes proposes, "If it is too much to say that Pinter faults himself for his earlier political inactivity, his political theater dramatizes the interplay and conflict of the opposing poles of involvement and disengagement" (19). He also wrote the political satire Party Time, first as a play for the stage (Faber and Faber, 1991), published in the U.S. edition along with The New World Order (Grove P, 1993; Grimes 101–28), and then revised and adapted it as a television screenplay (Faber and Faber, 1994; Baker and Ross 100–102). From 1993 to 1999, reflecting both personal and political concerns, Pinter wrote Moonlight (1993) and Ashes to Ashes (1996), full-length plays with domestic settings relating to death and dying and (in the latter case) to such "atrocities" as the Holocaust. In this period, after the deaths of first his mother and then his father, again merging the personal and the political, Pinter wrote the poems "Death" (1997) (which he read in his 2005 Nobel Lecture) and "The Disappeared" (1998).Lincoln Center Harold Pinter Festival (Summer 2001) In July and August 2001, a Harold Pinter Festival celebrating his work was held at Lincoln Center in New York City, in which he participated as both a director (of a double bill pairing his newest play, Celebration, with his first play, The Room) and an actor (as Nicolas in One for the Road).Harold Pinter Homage at World Leaders (Autumn 2001) In October 2001, as part of the "Harold Pinter Homage" at the World Leaders Festival of Creative Genius, at Harbourfront Centre, in Toronto, following the reception and during the dinner honoring him, he presented a dramatic reading of Celebration (2000) and also participated in a public interview as part of the International Festival of Authors ("Harold Pinter Added to IFOA Lineup"; "Travel Advisory").
That winter Pinter's collaboration with director Di Trevis resulted in their stage adaptation of his as-yet unfilmed 1972 work The Proust Screenplay, entitled Remembrance of Things Past (both based on Marcel Proust's famous seven-volume novel In Search of Lost Time), being produced at the National Theatre, in London. There was also a revival of The Caretaker in the West End.Career developments from 2001 to 2005 Late in 2001, Pinter was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus, for which he underwent a successful operation and chemotherapy in 2002. During the course of his treatment, he directed a production of his play No Man's Land, wrote and performed in his new sketch "Press Conference" for a two-part otherwise-retrospective production of his dramatic sketches at the National Theatre, and was seen on television in America in the role of Vivian Bearing's father in the HBO film version of Margaret Edson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wit. Since then, having become increasingly "engaged" as "a citizen," Pinter has continued to write and present politically-charged poetry, essays, speeches and two new screenplay adaptations of plays, based on Shakespeare's King Lear (completed in 2000 but unfilmed) and on Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth (written in 2005, with revisions completed later for the 2007 film Sleuth). Pinter's most recent stage play, Celebration (2000), is more a social satire, with fewer political resonances than such plays as One for the Road (1984), Mountain Language (1988), Party Time (1991), and Ashes to Ashes (1996), the last three of which extend expressionistic aspects of Pinter's "memory plays". His most recent dramatic work for radio, Voices (2005), a collaboration with composer James Clarke, adapting such selected works by Pinter to music, premièred on BBC Radio 3 on his 75th birthday (10 Oct. 2005), three days before the announcement that he had won the 2005 Nobel Prize in Literature (13 Oct. 2005).Public announcement of "retirement" from playwriting (February 2005) On 28 February 2005, in an interview with Mark Lawson on the BBC Radio 4 program Front Row, Pinter announced publicly that he would stop writing plays to dedicate himself to his political activism and writing poetry: "I think I've written 29 plays. I think it's enough for me. I think I've found other forms now. My energies are going in different directions—over the last few years I've made a number of political speeches at various locations and ceremonies … I'm using a lot of energy more specifically about political states of affairs, which I think are very, very worrying as things stand."
In June 2006, prevailing over persistent health challenges, Billington observes in his updated "Afterword 'Let's Keep Fighting' ", Pinter attended "a celebration of his work in cinema organised by the British branch of the Academy of Motion Pictures," for which his friend and fellow playwright David Hare "organised a brilliant selection of film clips ... [saying] 'To jump back into the world of Pinter's movies ... is to remind yourself of a literate mainstream cinema, focused as much as Bergman's is on the human face, in which tension is maintained by a carefully crafted mix of image and dialogue' " (Billington, Harold Pinter 429).Europe Theatre Prize (March 2006) In their public interview at the Europe Theatre Prize ceremony in Turin, Italy, which was part of the cultural program of the XX Winter Olympic Games. Billington asked Pinter, "Is the itch to put pen to paper still there?" He replied, "Yes. It's just a question of what the form is … I've been writing poetry since my youth and I'm sure I'll keep on writing it till I conk out. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I've written 29 damn plays. Isn't that enough?" (Billington, " 'I've written' "). In response, audience members shouted "in unison" a resounding No, urging him to keep writing (Merritt, "Europe Theatre Prize Celebration").Interview on Newsnight (June 2006) Pinter occasionally leaves open the possibility that if a compelling dramatic "image" were to come to mind (though "not likely"), perhaps he would be obliged to pursue it. After making this point, Pinter performed a dramatic reading of his "new work," Apart From That, at the end of his June 2006 interview with Wark, which was broadcast live on Newsnight, with Rupert Graves. This "very funny" dramatic sketch was inspired by Pinter's strong aversion to mobile telephones; "as two people trade banalities over their mobile phones there is a hint of something ominous and unspoken behind the clichéd chat" (Billington, Harold Pinter 429).
Krapp's Last Tape (October 2006) In an account of Pinter's public interview conducted by Ramona Koval at the Edinburgh Book Festival "Meet the Author" in late August 2006, Robinson reports: "Pinter, whose last published play came out in 2000, said the reason he had given up writing was that he had 'written himself out', adding: 'I recently had a holiday in Dorset and took a couple of my usual yellow writing pads. I didn't write a damn word. Fondly, I turned them over and put them in a drawer.' " It appeared to Robinson that "despite giving up writing [Pinter] will carry on his acting career." From another perspective, however, as Eden and Walker observe: "So keenly is Harold Pinter relishing his return to the stage this autumn [in Krapp's Last Tape] that he has put his literary career on the back burner." Pinter said: "It's a great challenge and I'm going to have a crack at it" (Qtd. in Robinson).
After returning to London from Edinburgh, in September 2006, Pinter began rehearsing for his performance of the role of Krapp. In October 2006 Harold Pinter performed Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape from a motorized wheelchair in a limited run at the Royal Court Theatre to sold-out audiences and "ecstatic" critical reviews (Billington, "Theatre: Krapp's Last Tape" and Harold Pinter 429–30).
The production of only nine performances, from 12 October, two days after Pinter's 76th birthday, to 24 October 2006, was the most prized ticket in London during the fiftieth-anniversary celebration season of the Royal Court Theatre; his performances sold out on the first morning of general ticket sales (4 Sept. 2006). One performance was filmed, produced on DVD, and shown on BBC Four on 21 June 2007.Pinter: A Celebration (October–November 2006) Sheffield Theatres hosted Pinter: A Celebration for a full month (11 Oct.–11 Nov. 2006). The program featured selected productions of Pinter's plays (in order of presentation): The Caretaker, Voices, No Man's Land, Family Voices, Tea Party, The Room, One for the Road, and The Dumb Waiter; films (most his screenplays; some in which Pinter appears as an actor): The Go-Between, Accident, The Birthday Party, The French Lieutenant's Woman, Reunion, Mojo, The Servant, and The Pumpkin Eater; and other related program events: "Pause for Thought" (Penelope Wilton and Douglas Hodge in conversation with Michael Billington), "Ashes to Ashes –– A Cricketing Celebration", a "Pinter Quiz Night", "The New World Order", the BBC Two documentary film Arena: Harold Pinter (introd. Anthony Wall, producer of Arena), and "The New World Order –– A Pause for Peace" (a consideration of "Pinter's pacifist writing" [both poems and prose] supported by the Sheffield Quakers), and a screening of "Pinter's passionate and antagonistic 45-minute Nobel Prize Lecture."50th anniversary West-End revival of The Dumb Waiter; Celebration (February 2007) Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of The Dumb Waiter, Lee Evans and Jason Isaacs starred as Gus and Ben in "a major West end revival," directed by Harry Burton, "in a limited seven week run" at the Trafalgar Studios, from 2 February 2007 through 24 March 2007. John Crowley's film version of Pinter's play Celebration (2000) was shown on More 4 (Channel 4, UK), in late February 2007, "with a cast including James Bolam, Janie Dee, Colin Firth, James Fox, Michael Gambon, Julia McKenzie, Sophie Okonedo, Stephen Rea and Penelope Wilton."Radio broadcast of The Homecoming (March 2007) On 18 March 2007, BBC Radio 3 broadcast a new radio production of The Homecoming, directed by Thea Sharrock and produced by Martin J. Smith, with Pinter performing the role of Max (for the first time; he had previously played Lenny on stage in the 1960s), Michael Gambon as Max's brother Sam, Rupert Graves as Teddy, Samuel West as Lenny, James Alexandrou as Joey, and Gina McKee as Ruth (Martin J. Smith; West).Revival of The Hothouse (From 11 July 2007) A revival of The Hothouse, directed by Ian Rickson, with a cast including Stephen Moore (Roote), Lia Williams (Miss Cutts), and Henry Woolf (Tubb), among others, opened at the Royal National Theatre, in London, on 11 July 2007, playing concurrently with a revival of Betrayal at the Donmar Warehouse, also starring Samuel West (Robert), opposite Toby Stephens (Jerry) and Dervla Kirwan (Emma) and directed by Roger Michell (West).Sleuth (August 2007) Pinter's screenplay adaptation of the 1970 Tony Award-winning play Sleuth, by Anthony Shaffer, is the basis for the 2007 film Sleuth, directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Michael Caine (in the role of Andrew Wyke, originally played by Laurence Olivier) and Jude Law (in the role of Milo Tindle, originally played by Caine), who also produced it; scheduled for release on 12 October, the film debuted at the 64th Venice International Film Festival on 31 August 2007 and was screened at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival on 10 September.Broadway revival of The Homecoming (December 2007–April 2008) A Broadway revival of The Homecoming, starring James Frain as Teddy, Ian McShane as Max, Raul Esparza as Lenny, Michael McKean as Sam, and Eve Best as Ruth, and directed by Daniel Sullivan, opened on 16 December 2007, for a "20-week limited engagement … through 13 April 2008" at the Cort Theatre (Gans; Horwitz).50th anniversary revival of The Birthday Party (8–24 May 2008) The Lyric Hammersmith celebrated the play's 50th anniversary with a revival, directed by artistic director David Farr, and related events from 8 to 24 May 2008, including a gala performance and reception hosted by Harold Pinter on 19 May 2008, exactly fifty years after its London première there.
He is an active delegate of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign in the United Kingdom, an organization that defends Cuba, supports the government of Fidel Castro, and campaigns against the U.S. embargo on the country (Hands Off Cuba!). In 2001 Pinter joined the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milošević (ICDSM), which appealed for a fair trial for and the freedom of Slobodan Milošević; he signed a related "Artists' Appeal for Milošević" in 2004. (The organization continues its presence on the internet even after Milošević's death in 2006.)
In accepting an honorary degree at the University of Turin (27 Nov. 2002), he stated: "I believe that [the United States] will [attack Iraq] not only to take control of Iraqi oil, but also because the American administration is now a bloodthirsty wild animal. Bombs are its only vocabulary." Distinguishing between "the American administration" and American citizens, he added the following qualification: "Many Americans, we know, are horrified by the posture of their government but seem to be helpless" (Various Voices 243). He has been very active in the current anti-war movement in the United Kingdom, speaking at rallies held by the Stop the War Coalition (StWC), which reprinted his Turin speech.
Since then he has called the President of the United States, George W. Bush, a "mass murderer" and the (then) Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, both "mass-murdering" and a "deluded idiot" and has described them, along with past U.S. officials, as "war criminals." He has also compared the Bush administration ("a bunch of criminal lunatics") with Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany, saying that, under Bush, the United States ("a monster out of control") strives to attain "world domination" through "Full spectrum dominance". Pinter characterized Blair's Great Britain as "pathetic and supine," a "bleating little lamb tagging behind [the United States] on a lead." According to Pinter, Blair was participating in "an act of premeditated mass murder" instigated on behalf of "the American people," who, Pinter notes, increasingly protest "their government's actions" (Public reading from War, as qtd. by Chrisafis and Tilden). Pinter published his remarks to the mass peace protest demonstration held on 15 February 2003, in London, on his website: "The United States is a monster out of control. Unless we challenge it with absolute determination American barbarism will destroy the world. The country is run by a bunch of criminal lunatics, with Blair as their hired Christian thug. The planned attack on Iraq is an act of premeditated mass murder" ("Speech at Hyde Park"). Those remarks anticipate his 2005 Nobel Lecture, "Art, Truth, & Politics", in which he observes: "Many thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States itself are demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their government's actions, but as things stand they are not a coherent political force–yet. But the anxiety, uncertainty and fear which we can see growing daily in the United States is unlikely to diminish" (21).
In accepting the Wilfred Owen Award for Poetry, on 18 March 2005, wondering "What would Wilfred Owen make of the invasion of Iraq? A bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the conception of international law?", Pinter concluded: "I believe Wilfred Owen would share our contempt, our revulsion, our nausea and our shame at both the language and the actions of the American and British governments" (Various Voices 247-48).
In March 2006, upon accepting the Europe Theatre Prize, in Turin, Pinter exhorted the mostly European audience "to resist the power of the United States," stating, "I'd like to see Europe echo the example of Latin America in withstanding the economic and political intimidation of the United States. This is a serious responsibility for Europe and all of its citizens" (Qtd. in Anderson and Billington, Harold Pinter 428).
He continues to sign petitions on behalf of artistic and political causes that he supports. For example, he became a signatory of the mission statement of Jews For Justice For Palestinians in 2005 and of its full-page advertisement, "What Is Israel Doing? A Call by Jews in Britain" featured in The Times on 6 July 2006. He also co-signed an open letter about recent events in the Middle East dated 19 July 2006, distributed to major news publications on 21 July 2006, and posted on the website of Noam Chomsky ("Letter from Pinter, Saramago, Chomsky and Berger"; Chomsky, "Israel, Lebanon, and Palestine"; "Palestinian Nation Under Threat").
On 5 February 2007 The Independent reported that, along with historian Eric Hobsbawm, human rights lawyer Geoffrey Bindman, fashion designer Nicole Farhi, film director Mike Leigh, and actors Stephen Fry and Zoë Wanamaker, among others, Harold Pinter launched the organization Independent Jewish Voices in the United Kingdom "to represent British Jews … in response to a perceived pro-Israeli bias in existing Jewish bodies in the UK", and, according to Hobsbawn, "as a counter-balance to the uncritical support for Israeli policies by established bodies such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews" (Hodgson; Independent Jewish Voices#IJV Declaration).
In March 2007 Charlie Rose had "A Conversation with Harold Pinter" on Charlie Rose, filmed at the Old Vic, in London, and broadcast on television in the United States on PBS. In this interview they discussed highlights of his career and the politics of his life and work. They debated his ongoing opposition to the Iraq War, with Rose challenging some of Pinter's views about the United States. They also discussed some of his other public protests and positions in public controversies, such as that involving the New York Theatre Workshop's cancellation of their production of My Name Is Rachel Corrie, which Pinter views as an act of cowardice amounting to self-censorship.
In mid-June 2008, opposing "a police ban on the George Bush Not Welcome Here" demonstration organized by the Stop the War Coalition (StWC), "Pinter commented, 'The ban on the Stop The War Coalition march in protest at the visit of President Bush to this country [England] is a totalitarian act. In what is supposed to be a free country the Coalition has every right to express its views peacefully and openly. This ban is outrageous and makes the term "democracy" laughable' " ("Protesters Will Defy Ban").
In both his writing and his public speaking, as McDowell observes,
An Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and an Honorary Fellow of the Modern Language Association of America (1970), Pinter was appointed CBE in 1966 and became a Companion of Honour in 2002 (having previously declined a knighthood in 1996). In 1995 and 1996 he accepted the David Cohen Prize, in recognition of a lifetime's literary achievement, and the Laurence Olivier Special Award for a lifetime's achievement in the theatre, respectively. In 1997 he became a BAFTA Fellow. He received the World Leaders Award for "Creative Genius", as the subject of a week-long "Homage" in Toronto, in October 2001. A few years later, in 2004, he received the Wilfred Owen Award for Poetry—"in recognition of Pinter's lifelong contribution to literature, 'and specifically for his collection of poetry entitled War, published in 2003' " (Wilfred Owen Association Newsletter). In March 2006 he was awarded the Europe Theatre Prize, in recognition of lifetime achievements pertaining to drama and theater ("Letter of Motivation"). In conjunction with that award, from 10 March to 14 March 2006, Michael Billington coordinated an international conference on "Pinter: Passion, Poetry, Politics", including scholars and critics from Europe and the Americas (Harold Pinter 427–28).
When interviewed about his reaction to the Nobel Prize announcement by Billington, Pinter joked: "I was told today that one of the Sky channels said this morning that 'Harold Pinter is dead[.'] Then they changed their mind and said, 'No, he's won the Nobel prize.' So I've risen from the dead" (Billington, " 'They said' ").
Nobel Week, including the Nobel Prize Awards Ceremony in Stockholm and related events throughout Scandinavia, began in the first few days of December 2005. Due to medical concerns about his health, Pinter and his family could not attend the Awards Ceremony and related events of Nobel Week. After the Academy notified him of his award, he had arranged for his publisher (Stephen Page of Faber and Faber) to accept his Nobel Diploma and Nobel Medal at the Awards Ceremony scheduled for 10 December, but he had still planned to travel to Stockholm, to present his lecture in person a few days earlier (Honigsbaum). In November, however, he was hospitalized for an infection that nearly killed him, and his doctor barred such travel.
Simultaneously transmitted on Channel 4 in the UK that evening, the 46-minute television broadcast was introduced by friend and fellow playwright David Hare. Subsequently, the full text and streaming video formats were posted for the public on the Nobel Prize and Swedish Academy official websites. In these formats Pinter's Nobel Lecture has been widely watched, cited, quoted, and distributed by print and online media and the source of much commentary and debate.
His Nobel Lecture, Art, Truth & Politics provoked extensive public controversy, with some media commentators accusing Pinter of "anti-Americanism" (Allen-Mills). Yet Pinter emphasizes that he criticizes policies and practices of American administrations, not American citizens, many of whom he recognizes as "demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their government's actions" (Various Voices 243; Art, Truth & Politics 21).
As a result of his Nobel Prize and his controversial Nobel Lecture, interest in Pinter's life and work have surged. They have led to new revivals of his plays, to the updating of Billington's biography (Billington, "We Are Catching Up"; Harold Pinter), and to new editions of Pinter's works (The Essential Pinter and The Dwarfs by Grove Press and a box set of The Birthday Party, No Man's Land, Mountain Language, and Celebration by Faber and Faber).
Scholars who have studied the evolution of Pinter's life and work over the course of his career agree that Pinter's analyses and dramatizations of power relations reflect such a "critical and moral scrutiny" astutely.
Pinter's aversion to any censorship by "the authorities" is epitomized in Petey's line at the end of The Birthday Party. As the broken-down and reconstituted Stanley is being carted off by the figures of authority Goldberg and McCann, Petey calls out after him, "Stan, don't let them tell you what to do!" "I've lived that line all my damn life. Never more than now," he told Gussow in 1988 (Qtd. in Merritt, Pinter in Play 179). Pinter's ongoing opposition to "the modes of thinking of those in power"—the "brick wall" of the "minds" perpetuating the "status quo" (180)—infuses the "vast political pessimism" that some academic critics may perceive in his artistic work (Grimes 220), its "drowning landscape" of harsh contemporary realities, with some residual "hope for restoring the dignity of man" (Pinter, Art, Truth & Politics 9, 24).
As Pinter's longtime friends and colleagues director David Jones (19 February 1934 – 19 September 2008) and actor Henry Woolf have often reminded serious-minded scholars and dramatic critics, Pinter is also a "great comic writer" (Coppa); but, as Pinter said of The Caretaker, his work is only "funny, up to a point" (Qtd. in Jones; cf. Woolf in Merritt, "Talking about Pinter").