James Hawes

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James Hawes is a British television director. He has worked in British television drama since the mid-1990s, and has also produced documentaries for British and American television networks. His work has ranged across high-end period pieces and prime-time adventure drama, including the re-launch of Doctor Who and Enid , a biopic starring Helena Bonham Carter about the celebrated children's author Enid Blyton, which won Hawes a BAFTA nomination as Best Director at the 2010 ceremony.


Early life

Hawes was born in Wimbledon, England, but his father's career in the mining industry soon moved the family to South America. Hawes started school in Lima, Peru. Eventually returning to the UK, the family settled in Cornwall where Hawes attended the local Constantine Primary School before moving on to Truro School. He read law at the University of Warwick, combining his studies with acting and directing in the student drama society. Around him at the time was an unusually talented group of students who would go on to considerable success as actors, writers, directors, producers and agents – including Ruth Jones, Stephen Thompson, Paul W. Anderson, Lawrence Till and Paul Stephens. On the Warwick academic staff at this time was Andrew Davies, soon to become a celebrated screenwriter.

In his graduate year, Hawes directed his own adaptation of Shakespeare's Henry plays, touring it to commercial venues.

TV career

Hawes began his television work in factual programming, working in the BBC's documentary and current affairs departments. In parallel, he launched The Young Shakespeare Company, a professional touring theatre company, which he ran as artistic director and which performed in the UK and US. In 1990, he directed HRH Prince Charles in The Earth in Balance, the prince's documentary about the challenges facing the global environment, which filmed across the world, including locations such as Hong Kong harbour, to Kennedy Space Center and the Sumatran jungles. The film was to set Hawes on a future that often found him shooting in challenging locations. Other documentary work includes the investigative strand, Inside Story for the BBC, the Emmy Award-nominated Egypt's Golden Empire and the 2003 drama-documentary, Lawrence of Arabia: The Battle for the Arab World, which he both wrote and directed. It used the story of Lawrence's life as a prism through which to study the shaping of the Middle East in a post-9/11 world.

Move to drama

Hawes moved into drama, earning his spurs on popular drama The Bill. Hawes' work on the BAFTA winning Doctor Who has been particularly well received. He directed Christopher Eccleston in "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances" which won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form in 2006. [1] As a result, Hawes was hired to helm episodes of the second season, directing the Christmas special and introducing David Tennant as the new Doctor. "School Reunion" was also nominated for the 2007 ceremony. Hawes was awarded the BAFTA Cymru Award for Best Drama Director for his work on "The Christmas Invasion". [2]

In early 2006, Hawes directed an Andrew Davies-scripted 90-minute television drama based on the Lady Chatterley's Lover obscenity trial of 1960, The Chatterley Affair. This one-off drama for digital television channel BBC Four features Doctor Who star David Tennant as Richard Hoggart. It was one of the first of what would become an extremely successful run for single dramas on British television, often bringing big screen stars to individual and authored projects. The Chatterley Affair also won Best Single Drama in the same BAFTA awards as the Doctor Who success.

Hawes was also announced in late 2005 as the producer and lead director of the forthcoming Doctor Who spin-off series Torchwood — however, in early 2006 it was confirmed that he would not in fact be producing the series. According to Doctor Who and Torchwood executive producer Russell T Davies in Doctor Who Magazine issue 366 (dated 1 March 2006), Hawes' direction of the Chatterley piece and his decision to back down from producing Torchwood were related. "James Hawes has been having such a good time... that he's decided directing is his greatest passion, and as a result, he's stepped down."

In 2007, he linked up again with Andrew Davies to direct an adaptation of the 18th-century novel Fanny Hill , for Sally Head Productions and BBC Four. [3]

In 2008, Hawes was appointed lead director on the BBC fantasy series Merlin , which began broadcasting in September 2008. [4] "Merlin" has been picked up by NBC in the US where it premiered in summer 2009. As such, it is the first UK-produced show to make the switch to a US network in 30 years.

Later in 2008 he also directed a new version of The 39 Steps, again for BBC One. [5] Hawes picked up a Best Director trophy for this at the 2009 Shanghai TV Festival.

Hawes began 2009 directing a BBC TV film, Enid, with Helena Bonham Carter starring as author Enid Blyton. Scripted by Lyndsay Shapero, the film co-stars Matthew Macfadyen and Denis Lawson. The films' success on the digital networks earned it a transfer to BBC1 and several major award nominations, including Best Director for Hawes, and Best Actress nods for Bonham Carter at both the BAFTAs and the International Emmys. The film has earned Hawes high praise for the performances and the stylishness of a big screen production on a small screen budget.

Building on his success with fact-based drama, Hawes embarked on the ambitious project to bring The Suspicions of Mr Whicher to the screen. Adapted by Neil Mackay, the original book, telling the story of a horrific child murder in 1860s England, had been a break-out best-seller. Paddy Considine took the title role and the film scored big audiences and critical acclaim.

Hawes has also demonstrated his ease with contemporary work, including the piloting of DCI Banks for ITV and season two of Mad Dogs, the high-action comedy thriller for Sky TV.

Hawes directed The Mill , a mini series for Channel Four TV about the people and politics of Quarry Bank Mill, a 19th-century cotton mill. [6]

In April 2012, he signed up to direct a TV movie telling the story of the inquiry into the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster and the role of Richard Feynman in uncovering the cause. Commissioned for the BBC, the film is set to shoot in the US later in 2012.

He is a long-serving board member of Directors UK, the screen directors' organization in Britain. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.

Future projects

Hawes is rumoured to have been attached to a BBC movie, working title Lawrence After Arabia, with a script by Howard Brenton, and more recently has been working on a feature about John Gielgud, based on the play A Plague Over England.

In May 2012, Hawes signed a slate deal with BBC Worldwide for all his TV development.


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  1. "Hugo and Campbell Awards Winners". Locus Online . 26 August 2006. Retrieved 27 August 2006.
  2. Price, Karen (23 April 2006). "Doctor Who dominates Welsh Baftas". The Western Mail . Retrieved 23 April 2006.
  3. "BBC Four gets turned on to Andrew Davies' steamy adaptation of Fanny Hill". BBC. 13 July 2007. Retrieved 13 July 2007.
  4. "Richard Wilson and Anthony Head lead cast in Merlin, a fantasy drama for BBC One". BBC. 17 March 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2008.
  5. "The 39 Steps". BBC. 21 August 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2008.
  6. "The Mill – Press". Channel 4. 25 July 2013. Retrieved 3 August 2013.