Ronald Harwood, Oscar-Winning Screenwriter, Is Dead at 85 »

In addition to the theater world, Mr. Harwood usually used the interval round World War II as a backdrop to discover characters who face sophisticated ethical selections. His play “Taking Sides,” for example, examined the case of the German composer Wilhelm Furtwängler, who was accused of aiding the Nazi regime. The play caught the eye of Roman Polanski, who requested Mr. Harwood to jot down the script for a movie he was directing, “The Pianist.”

That movie tells the real-life story of the Jewish pianist Władysław Szpilman and the way he survived in occupied Poland throughout the warfare. It received three Oscars — for Adrien Brody, its star, and Mr. Polanski in addition to Mr. Harwood — and took Mr. Harwood’s profession to new heights.

His later display screen credit included the big-budget Baz Luhrmann epic “Australia” and “Quartet,” a quieter story of ageing musicians, directed by Dustin Hoffman, which Mr. Harwood tailored from his personal play.

Mr. Harwood was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2010.

In 1959, Mr. Harwood married Natasha Riehle. She died in 2013. His survivors embrace their youngsters, Antony, Deborah and Alexandra Harwood.

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