Celebrities who admire William Saroyan

09 Jun 2022

William Saroyan's legacy still stands today and inspires countless modern adaptations of his works and admiration from other artists. 

Dustin Hoffman

“I like William Saroyan, the writer. I read his plays when I was, like 22.”  Hoffman told James Franco during their “Actors on Actors” chat while talking about his struggle at the beginning of his career. “And he said one line talking about his work. He was asked ‘Why do you write?’ He said ‘because it’s the only way I chose to survive’. And that was literally in front of me going through rejection year after year.”, the actor revealed.

Sean Penn

Another famous person who admires William Saroyan is an American actor and director Sean Penn. He has been known to hand out cards to friends on which he has printed the epigraph to William Saroyan's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, The Time of Your Life: 'In the time of your life live,' it begins, 'so that in that good time there shall be no ugliness or death for yourself or for any life your life touches.'

And an interesting story: at the Hollywood Awards night, Sean Penn toasted Julia Roberts and said that "Julia is poetic. In the words of William Saroyan, ‘She is that who shines and is beyond corruption.’

Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan 

Meg Ryan’s son was 10 years old when she first read William Saroyan’s 1943 novel The Human Comedy. It soothed her fears about her boy leaving childhood behind and brought her comfort in the life that is found even in a story about death. “I kept thinking, ‘How do you become a man? I mean is he going to be all right?’ And I remember reading all kinds of things, and I got to this book, and it’s about so many things…there were so many great ideas inside of it”.

Her directorial debut, Ithaca, is based on Saroyan’s novel and comes from a place of motherhood. 

Tom Hanks, who is also a movie executive producer, makes an emotional cameo in the film as the deceased husband of Ryan's character.

Meg Ryan has also narrated an audio version of Saroyan’s book.

Stephen Fry

English actor and comedian Stephen Fry describe Saroyan in these words: ''He is one of the most underrated writers of the century. He takes his place naturally alongside Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Faulkner…A writer who was bigger than life…” 

Barbra Streisand

In her concert in 2006 American singer and actress Barbra Streisand recited an excerpt from The Time of Your Life (1939) by William Saroyan: “The playwright, William Saroyan said it much better than I ever could, in 1939 when this country was facing, actually the world was facing one of its' bleakest periods, he wrote these words as a forward to his very famous play ..." 

Johnny Depp

Famous American actor and producer Johnny Depp profoundly sympathizes with the works of William Saroyan. "I want something that every parent wants for their child. For them to be happy and not to get into the bad sides of life. My favorite book is William Saroyan's The Time of Your Life."

In a 2016 interview, Johnny Depp discussed meeting his all-time favorite actor Marlon Brando for the first time and how they bonded over the fact they both carried the preface page of The Time of Your Life folded inside their wallets and used it as a roadmap to living their lives. 

William Saroyan's The Human Comedy book is tattooed on Depp's right hand when he portrays  Jack Sparrow as well.