Matthew Lopez, one of America’s most talented playwrights, has revealed that he was inspired to write The Inheritance, his critically acclaimed new two-part play – the London production of which is supported by Bruno Wang Productions – thanks to a Sunday-afternoon trip to his local cinema as a teenager.
“When I was 16,” Lopez says, “I begged my mother to take me to see a movie that had improbably opened at our local movie theatre, a film called Howards End. I read that its star Emma Thompson was getting Oscar buzz for her performance and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. We went one Sunday afternoon after church. That day changed my life.”
Lopez, now aged 40, was brought up in Florida, where as the only gay kid at his school he admits he “found refuge in books and films”.
Writing in the official programme for the London show, he says: “There was nothing about that film that should have reached me, at least based on demographics. And yet I was transported by its story, its characters and most of all its humanity.
“My mother, being the good public-school teacher that she was, bought a copy of the novel,” – which was written by EM Forster – “for me. I read it over and over that spring and summer. It instantly became my favourite book. It remains so to this day.”
The playwright, who won the 2010-11 Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award for The Whipping Man, was living in New York when he began work on The Inheritance after reading Maurice, another novel by EM Forster.
“That was how I discovered Forster was gay,” he explains. “The realisation shook me deeply. I finally understood that the thing that had reached me that Sunday afternoon in my local cinema was the simple yet powerful connection of a gay man in 1910 speaking directly to a young gay boy in 1993.
“There was kinship between us. We shared something; a truth about ourselves. Forster had overcome his through writing. I had overcome mine through my reading.”