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Prick Up Your Ears (1987)

This film is the story of the spectacular life and violent death of British playwright Joe Orton. In his teens, Orton is befriended by the older, more reserved Kenneth Halliwell, and while ... See full summary »



(screenplay), (based on the biography by)

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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 5 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
James Grant ...
Janet Dale ...
Dave Atkins ...
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Education Officer
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RADA Judge


This film is the story of the spectacular life and violent death of British playwright Joe Orton. In his teens, Orton is befriended by the older, more reserved Kenneth Halliwell, and while the two begin a relationship, it's fairly obvious that it's not all about sex. Orton loves the dangers of bath-houses and liaisons in public restrooms; Halliwell, not as charming or attractive as Orton, doesn't fare so well in those environs. While both long to become writers, it is Orton who achieves fame - his plays "Entertaining Mr. Sloane" and "Loot" become huge hits in London of the sixties, and he's even commissioned to write a screenplay for the Beatles. But Orton's success takes him farther from Halliwell, whose response ended both his life and the life of the up-and-coming playwright. Written by Gary Dickerson <slug@mail.utexas.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


They shared everything - except success.


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

8 May 1987 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Das stürmische Leben des Joe Orton  »


Box Office

Gross USA:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The first film of Sean Pertwee. See more »


When Joe's agent first meets him in 1964, she asks him how he's been supporting himself. He tells her he's on public assistance, getting £3.10 per week. New pence weren't introduced until 1971. However, in the pre-decimal era, "Three pounds ten" would have been understood as "Three pounds and ten shillings", the present-day equivalent being £3.50. For example, "Maggie Mae", recorded by the Beatles in 1969 but based on a much older traditional song, includes the line "Two pounds ten a week, that was my pay." See more »


[Paul McCartney is going to visit and Joe and Kenneth are tidying frantically]
Kenneth Halliwell: This is what it must be like when one meets the Queen!
Joe Orton: Except when one meets the Queen one *generally* hasn't threatened to shove one's typewriter up her arse.
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Vivat Regina
Music by Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry
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User Reviews

Fantastic- need I say more?
13 December 2003 | by See all my reviews

One of Gary Oldman's first films and need I say, one of the best? Based on the biography by John Lahr, this film tells the true story of British playwright Joe Orton and his "friend" Kenneth Halliwell.

This film is sad because we all know the outcome of Joe and Kenneth right from the beginning. Interesting storyline, fantastic acting all round especially from Gary Oldman (Joe) and Alfred Molina (Kenneth) who both absorb into the characters with incredible style.

This film is a classic, especially if youre a Gary Oldman. This is another piece of evidence that Gary can not just act in a role, he can go into it.


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