Director’s Chair Introduction: Michael Apted

by Tony Cogan · January 10, 2021 · Director's Chair · No Comments

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Deadline: 6th February 2021

Hello everyone. Sorry it’s a bit delayed but here is the post announcing the featured director for January in Director’s Chair and, with the news of his recent passing, I’ve decided that this month should be focused on Michael Apted.

Apted got his start working in TV, initially as a researcher for the Granada series World in Action. It was here that Apted first got involved in his most enduring legacy when he was asked to do research and help select the children featured in the documentary 7 Up. Originally conceived as a one-off documentary, it was later decided to follow up on it in seven year intervals, with Apted deciding to direct each one, with the most recent instalment of the series airing in 2019 and the series winning a Peabody Award in 2012.

During his time as Granada, Apted also directed a few episodes of long running soap Coronation Street and a number of other TV shows. He made his film debut in 1972 with The Triple Echo, but kept alternating between film and TV, directing a few episodes of the BBC’s highly influential Play for Today series (with other directors for this series including Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Mike Newell, Stephen Frears and Alan Clarke).

In 1979, Apted made his Hollywood debut with Agatha, focusing on the 11 day disappearance of Agatha Christie, with Apted later having critical success with 1980’s Coal Miner’s Daughter, which was nominated for Best Picture and won Sissy Spacek Best Actress at the 53rd Academy Awards. Apted had further success later in the decade with Gorillas in the Mist, which was nominated for 5 Oscars, including Best Actress for Sigourney Weaver, alongside his other films and documentaries, including the Up series.

In the 90s, Apted had more mixed success, although his film Nell garnered an Oscar nomination for Jodie Foster for Best Actress. It was also in this decade that Apted helmed his biggest project to date, being chosen by Barbara Broccoli to direct the James Bond film The World is Not Enough. Originally, Peter Jackson was being considered to direct but Broccoli decided against him after watching The Frighteners. Due to the success Apted had with Coal Miner’s Daughter, Gorillas in the Mist and Nell, and Broccoli wanting more focus on the female characters, Apted was chosen. Whilst the film was a commercial success it received mixed reviews, praising the action scenes but criticising the plot and the performances.

Apted’s films in the 2000’s received mixed responses, with Enigma getting good reviews, but was heavily criticised for historical inaccuracy, Enough getting negative reviews, although praising the central performance from Jennifer Lopez, and Amazing Grace receiving more positive reviews. During this time, Apted also continued TV work, directing episodes of Rome, Masters of Sex and Ray Donovan.

In the 2010’s, Apted helmed another one of his bigger commercial films with The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, although the film received mixed reviews. Apted’s final narrative film was Unlocked in 2017, which received mostly negative reviews, but his final project on the whole was 63 Up in 2019.

As a reminder, the films of Apted’s you can cover are listed below.

  • 7 Plus Seven
  • The Triple Echo
  • Stardust
  • The Squeeze
  • 21 Up
  • Agatha
  • Coal Miner’s Daughter
  • Continental Divide
  • Gorky Park
  • Firstborn
  • 28 Up
  • Bring on the Night
  • Critical Condition
  • Gorillas in the Mist
  • Class Action
  • 35 Up
  • Thunderheart
  • Incident at Oglala
  • Blink
  • Moving the Mountain
  • Nell
  • Extreme Measures
  • 42 Up
  • The World is Not Enough
  • Me and Isaac Newton
  • Enigma
  • Enough
  • 49 Up
  • Amazing Grace
  • The Power of the Game
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  • 56 Up
  • Chasing Maveriks
  • Bending the Light
  • Unlocked
  • 63 Up

I look forward to reading whatever you send me.