John Patrick Shanley was born in The Bronx, New York City on October 13, 1950. His grew up in a working-class family, and he was profoundly affected by his crime-ridden neighborhood. Shanley attended Catholic school. Though he ran into numerous disciplinary problems, he was involved in his school theater productions. He later enrolled in New York University, but he took time off to serve as a U.S. Marine during the Vietnam War. He later returned to NYU and graduated as valedictorian. Shanley's most famous work, Doubt is somewhat based upon the writer's own experiences and observations in Catholic school. The character of Sister James is directly inspired by one of Shanley's high school teachers.
In order to fund Shanley's creative pursuits, the writer/director supported himself through a variety of jobs. Though he began writing plays, he became commercially successful with his screenplay for the 1987 romantic-comedy film, Moonstruck. For his work, Shanley was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. On the stage, Doubt: A Parable (2005) was one of the biggest successes of the writer's career. The play was praised by audiences and critics alike, and it won four Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in the year of its release. The writer later adapted Doubt: A Parable for the screen. He also served as the film's director.
Shanley's talent has solidified him a multi-faceted and revered American playwright, screenwriter, and director. He currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. Shanley has not pursued film since Doubt. Instead, the writer has focused on producing plays in New York theaters, among them Outside Mullingar, Prodigal Son, and The Portuguese Kid.