James Bond and Coronation Street director Michael Apted dies aged 79


James Bond and Coronation Street director Michael Apted has died aged 79, his agent has said.

The British filmmaker was known for the Up series of documentaries which followed the lives of 14 children since 1964, as well as directing Coal Miner’s Daughter and Gorillas In The Mist.

Apted also directed the 1999 James Bond film The World Is Not Enough, which starred Pierce Brosnan.

Thomas Schlamme, president of the Directors Guild of America (DGA), led tributes to Apted.

He said: ‘Our hearts are heavy today as we mourn the passing of esteemed director, longtime DGA leader and my friend Michael Apted.

‘His legacy will be forever woven into the fabric of cinema and our Guild.

‘A fearless visionary as a director and unparalleled Guild leader, Michael saw the trajectory of things when others didn’t, and we were all the beneficiaries of his wisdom and lifelong dedication.’

James Bond and Coronation Street director Michael Apted has died aged 79, his agent has said

The British filmmaker was known for the Up series of documentaries which followed the lives of 14 children since 1964, as well as directing Coal Miner's Daughter and Gorillas In The Mist. Pictured: With wife Paige Simpson in 2012

Pictured: With Pierce Brosnan and Denise Richards

The British filmmaker was known for the Up series of documentaries which followed the lives of 14 children since 1964, as well as directing Coal Miner’s Daughter and Gorillas In The Mist. Left: With wife Paige Simpson in 2012. Right: With Pierce Brosnan and Denise Richards

Apted also directed the 1999 James Bond film The World Is Not Enough, which starred Pierce Brosnan (pictured together on set)

Apted also directed the 1999 James Bond film The World Is Not Enough, which starred Pierce Brosnan (pictured together on set)

What has Apted directed?

  • Up
  • Coal Miner’s Daughter
  • Gorillas In The Mist
  • The World Is Not Enough
  • Bloodline
  • Unlocked
  • Bending the light
  • Chasing Mavericks
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  • The Fifa 2006 World Cup Film: The Grand Finale

Apted, who served as the president of the DGA from 2003 to 2009, was born in 1941 in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, before moving to London with his father after the Second World War.

As a child, he studied at the City of London School where he first developed an interest in cinema.

In 2008 he was made a companion of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to the British film and television industries.

He won four Baftas, including three for Up. A tweet from the film academy said the organisation is ‘very sorry to hear of the death of director Michael Apted’.

The producers of the James Bond film franchise paid tribute to Apted’s ability to move ‘effortlessly and successfully between all genres’.

A Twitter post signed by Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli said: ‘It is with very heavy hearts that we share the news of the passing of Michael Apted.

‘He was a director of enormous talent and range and unique in his ability to move effortlessly and successfully between all genres.

‘He was beloved by all those who worked with him.

‘We loved working with him on The World Is Not Enough and send our love and support to his family, friends and colleagues.’

The official Twitter page for the Oscars also paid tribute, saying: ‘Director Michael Apted will always be remembered for the groundbreaking documentary ‘Up’ series.

‘A past president of the Directors Guild and Academy Governor, he also made many acclaimed feature films, from ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ to ‘The World Is Not Enough.’ He will be missed.’

Thomas Schlamme, president of the Directors Guild of America (DGA), led tributes to Apted (pictured in 1994)

Pictured: Robbie Coltrane, Pierce Brosnan, Denise Richards and Michael Apted

Pictured: Robbie Coltrane, Pierce Brosnan, Denise Richards and Michael Apted

Apted poses for photographs after he was awarded the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in 2009

Apted poses for photographs after he was awarded the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in 2009

A tweet from the official Twitter page of Bafta said the organisation is ‘very sorry to hear of the death of director Michael Apted’.

It added: ‘Winner of 4 BAFTAs, including 3 for his acclaimed and ground-breaking ‘Up’ documentary series.

‘Michael is pictured here (left) receiving his BAFTA for 28 Up from David Frost in 1985.’

ITV managing director Kevin Lygo highlighted Apted’s long association with the broadcaster.

He said: ‘At ITV, we are deeply saddened by the news that Michael Apted has passed away.

‘Michael’s long and distinguished career began and ended with ITV, spanning six decades, which is in itself truly remarkable. What that association produced was truly unique.

‘The Up series demonstrated the possibilities of television at its finest in its ambition and its capacity to hold up a mirror to society and engage with and entertain people while enriching our perspective on the human condition.

‘The influence of Michael’s contribution to film and programme-making continues to be felt and he will be sadly missed.’

Actor and director Paul Feig said he was ‘very very sad to hear of the passing of Michael Apted’.

‘He was always so kind to me and I was such a great admirer of his work,’ he added.

‘We were on the DGA board together for a couple of years and I always looked forward to sitting next to him. RIP Michael.’

Screenwriter John Fusco, who worked with Apted on the film Thunderheart, tweeted: ‘Sad to learn of the passing of brilliant film director Michael Apted.

‘In directing ‘Thunderheart’ he was the only director to ever truly capture one of my screenplays as envisioned. Excelsior, Mate.’

A post on the Twitter account of the band Garbage, who performed the theme for The World Is Not Enough, labelled Apted a ‘delightful, charming soul’.

‘Thank you for sprinkling us with some of your stardust,’ the post added.

The song’s composer David G Arnold, who worked with Apted on three other films including The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader, tweeted: ‘I was lucky enough to go to the rodeo with Michael on 4 films, including ‘Bond’ and ‘Narnia’.

‘A more trusting, funny, friendly and, most importantly, kind person you’d never meet. So pleased to have known him and so sad that he’s gone.’

Michael Apted’s legacy remains secured with his influential and ambitious Up documentaries

Filmmaker Michael Apted was no stranger to a Hollywood blockbuster, but his enduring legacy will be the Up documentary series – an intimate, profound insight into Britain’s social history.

Originally planned as a one-off for Granada Television, producers in the early 1960s plucked a group of children from various backgrounds in a bid to examine the enduring strength of the country’s class structure.

Seven years later, Apted, a researcher on the first series, returned to the subjects to check on their progress, setting in place the structure for one of the most influential and ambitious documentaries ever.

Filmmaker Michael Apted was no stranger to a Hollywood blockbuster, but his enduring legacy will be the Up documentary series - an intimate, profound insight into Britain's social history

Filmmaker Michael Apted was no stranger to a Hollywood blockbuster, but his enduring legacy will be the Up documentary series – an intimate, profound insight into Britain’s social history

The most recent instalment, 63 Up, aired in 2019.

Apted, who has died at the age of 79, graduated from TV to Hollywood, and his films included the 1980 Oscar-winning musical biopic Coal Miner’s Daughter, 1988 drama Gorillas In The Mist and 1999 Bond film The World Is Not Enough.

Apted was born in 1941 in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, and moved to London following the war with his father, who worked for a fire insurance company, and his homemaker mother.

He had a brother and a sister, who was adopted, and as a child studied at the prestigious City of London School.

It was here that Apted first developed a love of cinema and once described watching Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries as a teenager as his ‘road to Damascus’ moment.

After studying at Cambridge, Apted began working for Granada at a seminal time for the nascent commercial TV industry. He served as an assistant to Up director Paul Almond and one of his roles was procuring the children who would take part in the series.

They included three boys chosen from a prestigious pre-preparatory school in Kensington, London, a girl from a working-class east London neighbourhood and a boy from a small farm in a tiny village in the Yorkshire Dales.

Apted is pictured with Benedict Cumberland

Apted and Orlando Bloom attend a special screening of "Unlocked" at The May Fair Hotel in London in 2017

Left: Apted is pictured with Benedict Cumberland. Right: Apted and Orlando Bloom attend a special screening of ‘Unlocked’ at The May Fair Hotel in London in 2017

Up starkly illustrated the different lives children from disparate levels of society led.

The black-and-white programme opened with the children playing at a zoo as a narrator explained: ‘We brought these children together because we wanted a glimpse of England in the year 2000.

‘The shop steward and the executive of the year 2000 are now seven years old.’

The first show, an illustration of the class system’s deep-rooted influence, proved popular but a follow-up series was not immediately mooted.

Instead, Apted busied himself with other projects. He worked on Coronation Street in the early 1960s, as well as sitcoms The Dustbinmen and The Lovers.

It was around this time the idea of returning to the original Up children was floated. 7 Plus Seven, with Apted as director, aired in December 1970.

Its subjects were now teenagers and gone was the eager innocence of the original series. Apted later said it was the most difficult to film.

Award-winning filmmaker Apted is pictured with Polly Walker during HBO's "Rome" London Premiere at UGC Trocadero in London

Award-winning filmmaker Apted is pictured with Polly Walker during HBO’s ‘Rome’ London Premiere at UGC Trocadero in London

The differences between the children was now more pronounced – the well-off filmed strolling through their elite schools contrasted with their more working-class counterparts.

As the film’s original premise suggested, it was more often than not easy to see in which direction the respective children’s lives were going, even at 14.

Away from the Up series, Apted was stretching his wings in cinema. In 1980 came Coal Miner’s Daughter, which starred Sissy Spacek as country music singer Loretta Lynn.

Spacek won the Oscar for best actress, one of the film’s seven nominations. It was also up for best picture.

The 1980s brought further success for Apted, with movies including Continental Divide, Critical Condition and Gorillas In The Mist.

The latter, starring Sigourney Weaver as the naturalist Dian Fossey, again combined Apted’s skills for matching an instinct for popular entertainment with deep emotional insight.

In 1991, 35 Up arrived, producing the now regular update on the participants’ lives.

Tony Walker, who was chosen from an East End primary school, had found work as a London taxi driver. In 35 Up, it was revealed he and his wife had lost the baby she had been carrying in the previous series, causing a strain on their relationship.

By 42 Up Tony had admitted being unfaithful, though the marriage had survived.

Apted continued to work in Hollywood, with 1994’s Nell, starring the Oscar-nominated Jodie Foster as a young woman who has to face the world for the first time after being raised by her mother in an isolated cabin.

In 1999 came Apted’s swing at a Bond movie. He directed Pierce Brosnan in The World Is Not Enough, also starring Robert Carlyle as terrorist Renard.

Notoriously, the film starred Denise Richards as Dr Christmas Jones, a role still bemoaned by 007 fans. Despite this, and mixed reviews, The World Is Not Enough was a box office success, making more than 361 million dollars (about £267 million) at the global box office.

Apted’s final film was 2017 thriller Unlocked, starring Noomi Rapace, Orlando Bloom, Michael Douglas, John Malkovich and Toni Collette.

However, it is for Up he will be best remembered. By 2019’s 63 Up, death, illness and misfortune had befallen the subjects and the documentary had earned its place among the most acclaimed and influential ever.

Apted married his third wife, Paige Simpson, in 2014.

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