The History Boys is one of Alan Bennett’s most celebrated plays. The narrative is heavily inspired by Bennett's own experiences in school and the process through which he gained entrance to Oxford. Bennett says, “[The play draws] on some of the pains and the excitement of working for a scholarship at a time when Oxford and Cambridge were as daunting and mysterious to me as to any of the boys in the play."
Director Nicholas Hytner began collaborating with Alan Bennett while he was still finishing the play, two years before it was published. The History Boys débuted at the Lyttelton Auditorium of National Theatre in London on May 18, 2004 and was well-received by critics and the public alike. It won the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Awards for Best Play, the 2005 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play, and the South Bank Award. After its success in London, The History Boys came to Broadway, premiering at the Broadhurst Theater in New York City on April 23, 2006. It had a successful American run and closed on October 1, 2006. Later that year, The History Boys won the 2006 Tony Award for Best Play.
Bennett also adapted The History Boys for the screen and re-teamed with Nicholas Hytner, who directed the film version as well. All of the cast members from the original British stage production reprised their roles for the film, which stars Sacha Dhawan as Akhtar, Samuel Anderson as Crowther, Dominic Cooper as Dakin, Richard Griffiths as Hector, Clive Merrison as the Headmaster, Frances de la Tour as Mrs. Lintott, Stephen Campbell Moore as Irwin, Samuel Barnett as Posner, James Corden as Timms, Andrew Knott as Lockwood, Russell Tovey as Rudge, and Jamie Parker as Scripps.
The film opened to just as much (if not more) acclaim than the play, and the National Board of Review named The History Boys one of the Top Ten Films of 2006. In addition, Griffiths and de la Tour received BAFTA nominations for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.