M. Butterfly

Clive Owen starred in David Henry Hwang's story of love, espionage and betrayal.

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David Henry Hwang's play charts the scandalous romance between a married French diplomat and a mysterious Chinese opera singer in a love story of international espionage and betrayal. The 20-year relationship between a married French diplomat and a mysterious Chinese opera singer pushed and blurred the boundaries between male and female, east and west—while redefining the nature of love and the devastating cost of deceit.

Eligible Performer in a Leading Role: Clive Owen


  • The play was inspired by a series of real-life events involving French diplomat Bernard Boursicot and the Peking opera singer, Shi Pei Pu, with whom he had a lengthy affair that began while Bousicot was stationed in China. The two were later convicted of espionage by the French government.
  • Hwang made major rewrites for this production, adding material that has come to light in recent decades.


M. Butterfly played an out-of-town tryout at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C., in 1988. It premiered on Broadway in 1988 at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre and received the 1988 Tony Award for Best Play. John Lithgow and B. D. Wong played the principal roles, with Wong making his Broadway debut and winning a Tony Award. David Henry Hwang adapted the play for the screen in 1993. The film version was directed by David Cronenberg and starred Jeremy Irons and John Lone.


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