Oscar Directors: Apted, Michael, Femme-Oriented Films (Coal Miner’s Daughter, Gorrilas in the Mist, Nell)

Michael Apted is a British director, producer, writer and actor. One of the most prolific British directors, he is still best-known for his work on the “7-Up-49-Up” documentary series.

On June 29, 2003 he was elected President of the Directors Guild of America (DGA). He returned to TV, directing the first three episodes of the TV series Rome. His most recent feature film, Amazing Grace, premiered as closing night of the 2006 Toronto Film Fest.

Apted was born on February 10, 1941, to a lower middle class family, his father worked for an insurance company, in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. Apted secured a scholarship to attend City of London School and then study law and history at Cambridge University.

He began his career in television, as a trainee at Granada Television and where began work as a researcher. One of his first projects at Granada would became his most famous: the Up! series, which began in 1964 as a profile of fourteen seven-year-old children for the ground-breaking current affairs series World In Action.

As researcher, Apted was involved in selecting the children. Though it began as a one-shot documentary, the series has become an institution, revisiting the subjects every seven years, with Apted directing the later episodes in the series. The series follows Apted’s thesis that the British class system remains largely in place and is premised on the Jesuit motto “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” Now in its seventh installment, the series is a dramatic look the lives of ordinary peoples’ lives. The latest version, 49 Up, was produced in 2005, and Apted hopes too make another one, 56 Up.

During his time at Granada, Apted also directed episodes of Coronation Street, written by Jack Rosenthal. Apted and Rosenthal collaborated on several popular TV and film projects including the pilot episodes for The Dustbinmen and The Lovers. They teamed up again in 1984 for the TV movie P’tang Yang Kipperbang, commissioned by Britain’s Channel 4.

In 1976, Apted directed a play in Granada TV Series Laurence Olivier Presents: “The Collection by Harold Pinter.” The play starred Olivier, Malcolm McDowell, Alan Bates and Helen Mirren. For his work in TV, Apted has won several British Academy Awards, including Best Dramatic Director.

Apted made his first feature film in 1972, The Triple Echo, starring Oliver Reed and Glenda Jackson, and he directed two films for David Putnam. He alternated this work with working on the TV series Play for Today. Apted 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 has returned to several times.

In 1979, he directed “Agatha,” featuring Vanessa Redgrave and Dustin Hoffman. The majority of Apted’s successful feature films since then have been based around a female protagonist. He went to the United States in 1980, and there directed Coal Miner’s Daughter, which received seven Academy Award nominations, winning best actress for Sissy Spacek. 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. Sigourney Weaver and Jodie Foster have also received Oscar nominations for their turns in Apted’s films.

Apted has 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. Class Action deals with a corporate whistle blower, and Extreme Measures is about medical ethics.

Apted will direct the forthcoming final edition of the Goal! trilogy, Goal! 3, which is slated for release in 2008, and will also direct the third instalment of the Narnia films, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

TV

Coronation Street, 1963 – 1964
Haunted, 1967
There’s a hole in your dustbin, Deliah, 1968 – writer Jack Rosenthal
The Dustbinmen, 1969
Big Breadwinner Hog, 1969
The Lovers, 1970
Follyfoot, 1970
Another Sunday and Sweet F.A., 1970 – writer Jack Rosenthal
The Collection, 1976 – written by Harold Pinter and starring Laurence Olivier
Play for Today, 1972 – 1977
P’tang Yang Kipperbang, 1984
New York News, 1994
Married in America, 2002
Rome (mini-series), 2006

Filmography: Features

The Triple Echo, 1972
Stardust, 1974
The Squeeze, 1977
Agatha, 1979
Coal Miner’s Daughter, 1980
Continental Divide, 1981
Gorky Park, 1983
Firstborn, 1984
Bring On the Night, 1985
Gorillas in the Mist, 1988
Class Action, 1991
Thunderheart, 1992
Incident at Oglala, 1992
Blink, 1994
Nell, 1994
Extreme Measures, 1996
The World Is Not Enough, 1999
Enigma, 2001
Enough, 2002
Amazing Grace, 2006
Goal! 3, 2008
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, 2010

Documentaries

In addition to feature films, Apted has continued to direct documentaries, including Bring on the Night, a feature-length concert film about the making of Sting’s first solo album. In 1988/9 he directed the docu “The Long Way Home,” which chronicled the UK, US and USSR adventures of Boris Grebenshikov, the first Soviet underground musician allowed to record in the West. After making Thunderheart, Apted made the documentary Incident at Oglala detailing the actual events behind the film.

Apted directed in 1999 “The World Is Not Enough,” the first Bond film in which the main villain is a woman. He also gave more screen time than usual to the character of M, played by Judi Dench.