Michael Apted

Last updated

Michael Apted

Michael Apted at the 72nd Annual Peabody Awards (cropped).jpg
Apted in 2013
Michael David Apted

(1941-02-10)10 February 1941
Died7 January 2021(2021-01-07) (aged 79)
Education City of London School
Downing College, Cambridge
OccupationFilm director
Years active1963–2019
Spouse(s)Jo Apted (divorced)
Dana Stevens (divorced)
Paige Simpson
(m. 2014)
Children4, including Paul Apted

Michael David Apted, CMG (10 February 1941 – 7 January 2021) was a British director, producer, writer and actor. One of the most prolific English film directors of his generation, he is known for directing the Up series (1964–2019), the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough (1999), and the American film Coal Miner's Daughter (1980). The last was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. He also directed Nell (1994), which received three Golden Globe Award nominations and one Academy Award nomination, and the critically-acclaimed films Gorillas in the Mist (1988) and Enigma (2001).


On 29 June 2003, he was elected president of the Directors' Guild of America, [1] a position he served until 2009. [2]

Apted directed Amazing Grace , which premiered at the closing of the Toronto International Film Festival in 2006. [3] He was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 2008 Birthday Honours. [4]

Early life

Apted was born in 1941 in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, as the son of Frances Amelia (née Thomas) and Ronald William Apted. [5] [6]



He began his career in television as a six-months trainee at Granada Television in Manchester, where he worked as a researcher. One of his first projects at Granada would become his best known: the Up series, which began in 1964 as a profile of 14 seven-year-old children for the current affairs series World in Action. As a researcher and assistant to Canadian director Paul Almond, Apted was involved in selecting the children, who came from a variety of backgrounds and classes. [7] Though originally conceived as a one-off documentary, the series has become an institution. When it was suggested that they revisit the subjects at ages fourteen and twenty one, Apted accepted the offer to direct and directed every subsequent episode in the series. [7] It explores Apted's thesis that the British class system remains largely in place. It studies the participants based on the Jesuit motto "Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man", [8] looking at how they develop during their lives, compared to when they were seven. The series looks at the lives of these people over the years; the latest installment, 63 Up, was produced in 2019. [9] [10] It won a Peabody Award in 2012 "for its creator’s patience and its subjects' humanity." [11]

During his seven-year period of working at Granada, Apted also directed a number of episodes of Coronation Street, [12] then written by Jack Rosenthal, among others. Apted and Rosenthal later collaborated on a number of popular television and film projects, including the pilot episodes for The Dustbinmen [13] and The Lovers . [14] They worked together again in 1982 for the TV movie P'tang, Yang, Kipperbang , [15] the first film commissioned by Britain's Channel 4. In 1976 Apted directed a play in the Granada TV series Laurence Olivier Presents . The episode was The Collection by Harold Pinter. The play starred Laurence Olivier, Malcolm McDowell, Alan Bates and Helen Mirren. [16]

Apted used his idea from the Up series a second time in Married in America and Married in America 2. The idea was to interview nine married couples every two years over a ten year period to tell a more complete story of their marriages. [17] In 2005, he directed the first three episodes of the TV series Rome . [18]

For his work in television, Apted won several British Academy Awards, including two Flaherty Documentary Awards for his work on 28 Up and 35 Up and a BAFTA for Best Dramatic Director for the single play Kisses at Fifty in 1974. [19]


Apted made his first feature film in 1972, The Triple Echo , starring Oliver Reed and Glenda Jackson, and he directed two films for David Puttnam. The Triple Echo was entered into the 8th Moscow International Film Festival. [37] He alternated this work with working on the TV series Play for Today . He directed six plays including Stronger than the Sun, written by Stephen Poliakoff and starring Francesca Annis as a young woman who places her life in danger to expose a crime, a theme Apted returned to several times. [38] [12]

In 1979 he directed the Hollywood-financed Agatha , featuring Vanessa Redgrave. [39] The majority of Apted's feature films since then were based around a female protagonist. He went to the United States in 1980, where he directed Coal Miner's Daughter , [22] which received seven Academy Award nominations, winning best actress for Sissy Spacek. [40] Both Spacek and Loretta Lynn, the subject of the film, have said that they believe Apted's outsider point of view was crucial to the movie's success in securing the participation of Appalachian residents and to the avoidance of stereotypes that previously had marred portrayals of mountain culture. [41] [42] In 2019, Coal Miner's Daughter was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". [43]

Apted also made several films with a strong social message or that deal with an ethical dilemma. In 1983 he directed Gorky Park , a political thriller based on the novel by Martin Cruz Smith, that deals with police corruption in the former Soviet Union. [44] Class Action deals with a corporate whistleblower, [45] and Extreme Measures is about medical ethics. [46] Class Action was entered into the 17th Moscow International Film Festival. [47]

In 1994, he directed Nell , which received three Golden Globe Award nominations [48] and one Academy Award nomination. [49]

In 1999, Apted directed the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough . [50]


In addition to feature films, Apted continued directing documentaries, including Bring on the Night , a feature-length concert film about the making of Sting's first solo album. [52] He directed the documentary The Long Way Home, which was released in 1989. It chronicled the UK, US and USSR adventures of Boris Grebenshchikov, the first Soviet underground musician allowed to record in the West. [53]

Before the making of Thunderheart , Apted made the documentary Incident at Oglala about Leonard Peltier. Incident at Oglala then informed Thunderheart in the casting of actors for the fiction film. [54]

In 1997, he explored the creative process in Inspirations through candid discussion with seven artists from diverse media, including David Bowie, Louise Lecavalier and Roy Lichtenstein among others. [55]

In a departure from his earlier work, from 1992 to 1994, Apted ventured into China's rapidly changing popular culture. In a project backed by Trudie Styler, Apted directed Moving the Mountain , a feature documentary which probed the origins of the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square and the consequences of the movement in the lives of several of the movement's student leaders. [56]

In 2006, Apted co-directed The Official Film of the 2006 FIFA World Cup , narrated by Pierce Brosnan. [57]

Apted was the collaborator and subject of the documentary: Michael Apted – Visions on Film, by artist and filmmaker Melinda Camber Porter. [58]


In 1977, Apted directed the premiere of Strawberry Fields at the National Theatre in London.

Personal life

Michael Apted in 2007 Michael Apted by David Shankbone.jpg
Michael Apted in 2007

Apted married Paige Simpson, his third wife, in January 2014. [59] Apted was divorced from his second wife of ten years, the screenwriter Dana Stevens, with whom he had a son, John. [60] From his first marriage to Jo, Apted he had two sons, Paul and Jim. Paul Apted was a sound editor who worked on movies such as The Wolverine ; he died from colon cancer in 2014. [61] In 2007 Apted became a father for the fourth time to a girl, Lily Mellis, who lives with her mother Tania Mellis. [59]

He served as president of the Directors Guild of America from 2003 to 2009 and served as the secretary-treasurer from 2011 to his death. [2]

Apted died at his home in Los Angeles on 7 January 2021, at the age of 79. [6] [62] [63]

Related Research Articles

<i>Coal Miners Daughter</i> (film) 1980 film by Michael Apted

Coal Miner's Daughter is a 1980 American biographical musical film directed by Michael Apted from a screenplay written by Tom Rickman. It follows the story of country music singer Loretta Lynn from her early teen years in a poor family and getting married at 15 to her rise as one of the most influential country musicians. Based on Lynn's 1976 biography of the same name by George Vecsey, the film stars Sissy Spacek as Lynn. Tommy Lee Jones, Beverly D'Angelo and Levon Helm are featured in supporting roles. Ernest Tubb, Roy Acuff, and Minnie Pearl make cameo appearances as themselves.

John Schlesinger English film and stage director and actor

John Richard Schlesinger was an English film and stage director, and actor. He won an Academy Award for Best Director for Midnight Cowboy, and was nominated for two other films.

<i>Up</i> (film series) Documentary film series

The Up series is a series of documentary films produced by Granada Television for ITV that follows the lives of fourteen British children since 1964, when they were seven years old. The documentary has had nine episodes—one episode every seven years—thus spanning 56 years. All were broadcast on ITV, apart from 42 Up (1998), which was broadcast on BBC One. Individual films and the series as a whole have received numerous accolades; in 1991 the then most recent installment, 28 Up, was chosen for Roger Ebert's list of the ten greatest films of all time.

Jack Rosenthal

Jack Morris Rosenthal was an English playwright who wrote 129 early episodes of the ITV soap opera Coronation Street and over 150 screenplays, including original TV plays, feature films, and adaptations. A street in Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester, is named after him, appropriately next to a centre of contemporary art, theatre and film that opened in 2015, HOME.

Robson Green

Robson Golightly Green is an English actor, angler, singer, songwriter and presenter.

Nicholas Clay

Nicholas Anthony Phillip Clay was an English actor.

Sophie Okonedo English actress

Sophie Okonedo is a British actress, singer, and narrator. She began her film career in the British coming-of-age drama Young Soul Rebels (1991) before appearing in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995), and Stephen Frears's Dirty Pretty Things (2002).

Tony Gilroy American film director and screenwriter

Anthony Joseph Gilroy is an American screenwriter and filmmaker. He wrote the screenplays for the first four films of the Bourne series starring Matt Damon, among other successful films, and directed the fourth film of the franchise. He received nominations for the Academy Award for Best Director, and the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Michael Clayton. Gilroy wrote and directed Duplicity, starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, and co-wrote Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.


Thunderheart is a 1992 American Neo-Western mystery film, directed by Michael Apted from an original screenplay by John Fusco. The film is a loosely based fictional portrayal of events relating to the Wounded Knee incident in 1973, when followers of the American Indian Movement seized the South Dakota town of Wounded Knee in protest against federal government policy regarding Native Americans. Incorporated in the plot is the character of Ray Levoi, played by actor Val Kilmer, as an FBI agent with Sioux heritage investigating a homicide on a Native American reservation. Sam Shepard, Graham Greene, Fred Ward and Sheila Tousey star in principal supporting roles. Also in 1992, Apted had previously directed a documentary surrounding a Native American activist episode involving the murder of FBI agents titled Incident at Oglala. The documentary depicts the indictment of activist Leonard Peltier during a 1975 shootout on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Gavin Richards British actor and director

Gavin Richards is an English actor, writer and director.

<i>The Dustbinmen</i>

The Dustbinmen is a British television sitcom made by Granada Television for ITV, which starred Bryan Pringle, Trevor Bannister, Graham Haberfield and Tim Wylton. The show was a spin-off from a one-off 90-minute television film There's a Hole in Your Dustbin, Delilah (1968) written by Jack Rosenthal and directed by Michael Apted. This led to the sitcom which ran for three series between 1969 and 1970.

Randy Vasquez is an American actor and director.

David Hunt (actor) English actor, producer, and director

David Hunt is an English actor, producer, and director who has worked in both Britain and the United States. His best known U.S. film role is Harlan Rook, in the 1988 action film The Dead Pool, the fifth installment in the Dirty Harry series. He has also had guest roles on the television sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond as Ray's nemesis neighbor, Bill Parker. He also appeared in the recurring role of Darren McCarthy during Season 6 of 24. Back in the UK, Hunt was in the 1991 award-winning period drama, The Black Velvet Gown, as well as being a regular cast member of the series Beck for the BBC.

Antonia Jane Bird, FRSA was an English producer and director of television drama and feature films.

Karl Francis

Karl Francis is a Welsh film and television director, producer and screenwriter, associated with left-wing political causes. His work is inspired by the likes of Chris Marker and Ken Loach and has included output in both the English and Welsh languages.

Lawrence Konner is an American screenwriter and television writer of shows such as Boardwalk Empire and The Sopranos.

Osama bin Laden has been depicted or parodied in a variety of media. Notable examples include:

<i>Ptang, Yang, Kipperbang</i>

P'tang, Yang, Kipperbang, also released as Kipperbang, is a British television film first shown on Channel 4 on its second night, 3 November 1982.

Guy Gross is an Australian film and television composer. He is known most for writing the award-winning music for the Australian science fiction series Farscape and the international hit film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. He also composed for the animated television series Blinky Bill and Dumb Bunnies. He has 76 credits as screen composer.

Charles Furneaux is a British television producer. He began his career as an Assistant Producer with the BBC becoming a Commissioning Editor at Channel 4 in 1994. Furneaux then went to Talkback Thames in 2003 as Head of Specialist Factual and Documentaries resigning in 2007 to manage his own production company, Kaboom Film & TV.


  1. "Michael Apted Elected DGA President; New National Board, Slate of Officers Also Chosen" (Press release). Directors Guild of America. Business Wire. 29 June 2003. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  2. 1 2 "Michael Apted (1941-2021) - Visual History Interview". Directors Guild of America. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  3. Kumar, Matthew (22 August 2006). "Toronto International Film Festival 2006: Everything Announced". Torontoist. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  4. "No. 58729". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 2008. p. 2.
  5. "Michael Apted Biography (1941-)". www.filmreference.com.
  6. 1 2 Genzlinger, Neil (8 January 2021). "Michael Apted, Versatile Director Known for 'Up' Series, Dies at 79". The New York Times . Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  7. 1 2 "Michael Apted's Flawed but Brilliant Epic of British Socail Life". The Nation. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  8. Weeratunga, Jann. ""Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man." – The Schools Reading Road Show" . Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  9. Haddou, Jihane (8 January 2021). "Give Me the Child Until He Is Seven and I Will Give You the Man". Medium. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  10. "Michael Apted, Director Of The 'Up' Documentary Series, Dies At 79". NPR.org. 8 January 2021. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  11. Annual Peabody Awards, May 2013.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 "Michael Apted". TV.com. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  13. "The Dustbinmen: There's a Hole in Your Dustbin, Delilah". TV.com. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  14. Duguid, Mark. "Lovers, The (1970–71)". BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  15. "P'tang, Yang, Kipperbang. (1982)". BFI. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  16. "Michael Apted, Director of 'Coal Miner's Daughter' and 'Up' Series of Documentaries, Dies at 79". Variety. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  17. "Keeping a watchful eye on love, commitment / Michael Apted's 'Married in America' to trace nine couples over 10 years". SFGate.com. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  18. The three first episodes were:
  19. "BAFTA Awards". BAFTA. Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  20. Reuters Staff (9 January 2021). "'Up' documentary maker Michael Apted dies at 79". Reuters. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  21. "Michael Apted, director of James Bond, Narnia & more, passes away at 79". Syfy.com. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  22. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 "Michael Apted". BFI. Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  23. "There's a Hole in Your Dustbin, Delilah". BFI. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  24. 1 2 3 "Jack Rosenthal at ITV". Britishdrama.or.uk. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  25. "Your Name's Not God, It's Edgar (1968)". BFI. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  26. "Big Breadwinner Hog". Television Heaven. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  27. "Another Sunday and Sweet F.A. (1972)". BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  28. "Another Sunday and Sweet F.A. (1972)". BFI. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  29. "The Destructors (1975)". BFI. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  30. "The Collection (1976)". BFI. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  31. Fall 1992 Preview:Saturday, Ew.com, retrieved 9 January 2021
  32. Always Outnumbered (1998). Rotten Tomatoes , retrieved 9 January 2021
  33. Hart, Hugh (16 June 2002). "Keeping a watchful eye on love, commitment / Michael Apted's 'Married in America' to trace nine couples over 10 years". SFGATE. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  34. "The Futon's First Look: "Hallelujah" (ABC)". The Futon Critic. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  35. Reckless. Rotten Tomatoes , retrieved 9 January 2021
  36. Tallerico, Brian (30 May 2017). "Bloodline Recap: Hard Truths". Vulture. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  37. 1 2 "8th Moscow International Film Festival (1973)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  38. "Stronger than the Sun (1977)". BFI. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  39. Agatha (1979) – Michael Apted | Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related | AllMovie , retrieved 9 January 2021
  40. "The 53rd Academy Awards | 1981". Oscars.org | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  41. Sissy Spacek and Michael Apted. Feature commentary track, Coal Miner's Daughter 25th Anniversary/Collector's Edition, 2005.
  42. Interview with Loretta Lynn and Michael Apted. Featurette on Coal Miner's Daughter 25th Anniversary/Collector's Edition DVD, 2005.
  43. Chow, Andrew R. (11 December 2019). "See the 25 New Additions to the National Film Registry, From Purple Rain to Clerks". Time. New York, NY. Retrieved 11 December 2019.
  44. Gorky Park (1983) – Michael Apted | Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related | AllMovie , retrieved 9 January 2021
  45. Class Action (1991) – Michael Apted | Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related | AllMovie , retrieved 9 January 2021
  46. "Extreme Measures". Radio Times. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  47. "17th Moscow International Film Festival (1991)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 3 April 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  48. "Nell". Golden Globes Awards. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  49. "The 67th Academy Awards | 1995". Oscars.org | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  50. "James Bond and 7-Up director Michael Apted dies age 79". Radio Times. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  51. Amazing Grace (2007). Rotten Tomatoes , retrieved 9 January 2021
  52. Maslin, Janet (8 November 1985). "Screen: Sting in 'Bring on the Night'". The New York Times. p. C12. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  53. Ellis, Lucy (16 December 2009). Annie Lennox: The Biography. Omnibus Press. ISBN   9780857121141.
  54. . "Incident at Ogala: The Leonard Peltier Story". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  55. "Inspirations". DVDTalk.com. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  56. "Film Review:Moving the Mountain: Upheaval in China". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  57. "Film producer lists at Byron". The Sunday Telegraph. Sydney. 29 April 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  58. "Michael Apted, English director". MelindaCamberPorter.com. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  59. 1 2 Dagan, Carmel (8 January 2021). "Michael Apted, Director of 'Coal Miner's Daughter' and 'Up' Series of Documentaries, Dies at 79". Variety. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  60. "Filmmaker Dana Stevens Balances Motherhood, Movie-Making & Her New CBS Show Reckless". Tinseltown Mom. 23 June 2014. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  61. Hayden, Erik; Barnes, Mike (5 July 2014). "Paul Apted, Sound Editor and Son of Director Michael Apted, Dies at 47". The Hollywood Reporter.
  62. Welk, Brian. "Michael Apted, Director of 'Up' Documentaries and 'Coal Miner's Daughter,' Dies at 79". The Wrap. Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  63. D'Zurilla, Christie. "Michael Apted, '7 Up' director and three-time DGA president, dies at 79". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 January 2021.