David Nicholls (writer)

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David Nicholls
David Nicholls - MIBF 2011.jpg
BornDavid Alan Nicholls
(1966-11-30) 30 November 1966 (age 53)
Eastleigh, Hampshire, England
Former actor
Notable works Starter for Ten
One Day
Patrick Melrose
Far from the Madding Crowd

David Alan Nicholls [1] (born 30 November 1966) is an English novelist and screenwriter.


Early life and education

Nicholls is the middle of three siblings. He attended Barton Peveril sixth-form college at Eastleigh, Hampshire, from 1983 to 1985 (taking A-levels in Drama and Theatre Studies along with English, Physics and Biology), and playing a wide range of roles in college drama productions. Colin Firth was at the same College and they later collaborated in And When Did You Last See Your Father? [2] He went to Bristol University in the 1980s (graduating with a BA in Drama and English in 1988 [3] ) before training as an actor at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York.

First career

Throughout his 20s, he worked as an actor, using the stage name David Holdaway. He played small roles at various theatres, including the West Yorkshire Playhouse and, for a three-year period, at the Royal National Theatre. He struggled as an actor and has said "I’d committed myself to a profession for which I lacked not just talent and charisma, but the most basic of skills. Moving, standing still – things like that." Nicholls says that a turning point in his career came when a friend gave him a copy of PJ Kavanagh’s memoir The Perfect Stranger, which tells the author's own tale of maturation, finding love, and discovering his path in life. [4]

Writing career



Nicholls co-wrote the adapted screenplay of Simpatico and contributed four scripts to the third series of Cold Feet (both 2000). [2] For the latter, he was nominated for a British Academy Television Craft Award for Best New Writer (Fiction). [6] He created the Granada Television pilot and miniseries I Saw You (2000, 2002) and the Tiger Aspect six-part series Rescue Me (2002). Rescue Me lasted for only one series before being cancelled. Nicholls had written four episodes for the second series before being told of the cancellation. His anger over this led to him taking a break from screenwriting to concentrate on writing Starter for Ten . [7] When he returned to screenwriting, he adapted Much Ado About Nothing into a one-hour segment of the BBC's 2005 ShakespeaRe-Told season. He wrote a screen adaptation of his novel, One Day, which was made into a film starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess.

In 2006, his film adaptation Starter for 10 was released in cinemas. The following year, he wrote And When Did You Last See Your Father? , an adaptation of the memoir by Blake Morrison. His adaptation of Tess of the D'Urbervilles for the BBC aired in 2008. He has also adapted Great Expectations ; the screenplay has been listed on the 2009 Brit List, an annual industry poll of the best unmade scripts outside the United States. [8] He wrote The 7.39 , which was broadcast on BBC One in January 2014.

In 2015, he wrote the screenplay of Far from the Madding Crowd for BBC Films of Thomas Hardy's 1874 novel of the same name . It is the fourth film adaptation of the novel. [9]

Nicholls worked on the initial script for Bridget Jones's Baby (2016) but the script was re-written and he was not credited in the film. He wrote Patrick Melrose (2018), a five-part television series based on Edward St Aubyn's novels.


In 2005, he wrote Aftersun for the Old Vic's 24-Hour Play festival. The play, starring James Nesbitt, Saffron Burrows, Catherine Tate and Gael García Bernal was just 10 minutes long . Nicholls developed Aftersun into a one-off comedy for BBC One. It starred Peter Capaldi and Sarah Parish and was broadcast in 2006. [10]

Awards and honours

In 2015, Nicholls was awarded an honorary DLitt from The University of Edinburgh. [11] In 2016, he returned to the University of Bristol to receive the award of an honorary DLitt. [12]

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  1. Births, Marriages & Deaths Index of England and Wales, 1837–2006. 6B. p. 1327.
  2. 1 2 Murray, Janet (20 February 2007). "College days". The Guardian . London. Retrieved 13 July 2008.
  3. "Notable alumni – Faculty of Arts". University of Bristol Alumni. Archived from the original on 28 March 2012. Retrieved 16 July 2008.
  4. Nicholls, David (30 May 2015). "David Nicholls: the book that saved me". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  5. Nicholls, David (4 March 2009). "More University Challenge Cheats? As Corpus Christi are stripped of their champions title and last year's winners are also accused of cheating, can any quiz be good clean fun?". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  6. "Craft Nominations 2000". British Academy of Film and Television Arts . Retrieved 27 April 2008.
  7. Martin, Will (29 February 2008). "Sally Phillips interview". LastBroadcast.co.uk. Archived from the original on 5 March 2008. Retrieved 16 July 2008.
  8. Dawtrey, Adam (5 October 2009). "Good Luck Anthony Belcher tops Brit list of unmade scripts". London: guardian.co.uk (Guardian News & Media). Retrieved 5 October 2009.
  9. Kemp, Stuart (18 May 2008). "BBC Films has diverse slate". The Hollywood Reporter . Retrieved 18 May 2008.
  10. "Comedy dramas on BBC One" (Press release). BBC Press Office. 24 August 2006. Retrieved 16 July 2008.
  11. "Honorary graduates 2014/15".
  12. 1 2 Nicholls, David (Autumn 2016). "Finding my feet" (PDF). Nonesuch. University of Bristol. p. 22. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  13. Flood, Alison (27 November 2014). "David Nicholls and David Walliams win top prizes at National Book Awards". The Guardian . Retrieved 14 March 2015.

Further reading