Christopher Miles

Christopher Miles
Christopher Miles
Born April 19, 1939 (1939-04-19) (age 72)
London, England
Occupation Film director, producer and writer
Years active 1962 - present

Christopher Miles was born in London, England, the eldest of four children to ‘Wren’, a councilor, and John Miles, a consulting engineer, whose family had been in the steel industry for several generations. Two engineers named Miles are on a plinth in Yarm, commemorating the first railway in the world, from Stockton to Darlington in 1825.

Aged 16 while still at Winchester College (1953–57), Miles became the first person to show 8mm film on television (April 6, 1957), at the invitation of the BBC’s children’s program 'All Your Own’. During this time he helped produce and write a variety entertainment, the Begmilian Show, in which his sister Sarah Miles made her first public performance.

Aged 19, under suspicion of being a spy, he was imprisoned in Communist China for filming in Chinwangtao. In fact he was making his first commissioned film for the owner of the Silver Line, and was released from prison after 20 hours of non-stop questioning. Miles' film footage, which was some of the first from behind the ‘Bamboo Curtain', was later sold to Movietone News.

After six months at Stewarts & Lloyds in Corby, he decided to study film direction at the Institut des Hautes Études Cinématographiques (I.D.H.E.C 1961 - 62) in Paris. During the summer vacation, he wrote and directed A Vol d'Oiseau (1962) a half-hour film, which was shown at Studio 28, a Parisian cinema.



Due to ‘A Vol d’Oiseau’ Miles was able to get the Boulting Brothers to part finance his first 35mm project 'The Six Sided Triangle’ (1963), which he wrote, directed and co-produced. The film became a critical and commercial success, and was nominated for an Academy Award.

After joining the Grade Organization, Leslie Grade asked Miles to write and direct a film for the Shadows, then the most successful group in the country. 'Rhythm ‘n Greens’ (1964) was distributed as a supporting feature throughout the ABC cinema circuit. Grade then offered Miles his first feature film, ‘Up Jumped a Swagman’ (1965) a surrealist musical comedy. At 26 Miles became the youngest feature director working in England, which position he held for another five years.

Attracted to the French attitude to the cinema, and their ways of life, Miles made the Rue Lepic Slow Race (1967), and also filmed an original Jean Anouilh screenplay ‘Time for Loving’ (1971) and later Jean Genet’s The Maids (1975) for the American Film Theatre. The Maids was shown out of competition at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival.[1]

With the making of The Virgin and the Gypsy (1970), Miles came into international prominence, as the film was a worldwide financial and critical success. It was voted the best film that year by both the British Critics Circle and the New York Press, and was nominated for a Golden Globe. It lasted for 18 months in London’s West End and broke Box Office records in New York. The film was screened at the 1970 Cannes Film Festival, but wasn't entered into the main competition.[2]

As their film project on another D.H.Lawrence project 'The Plumed Serpent’ was postponed, Miles and his sister Sarah Miles were free to do a play in Chicago as a theatre was available. They chose Thorton Wilder’s comedy ‘Skin of our Teeth’ (1972), in which Miles directed both theatre and film-in-the-round

Miles was then asked by the BBC arts program ‘Full House’, to join other directors outside the BBC, to make half hour films of short stories from James Joyce or Anton Tchekhov. Miles chose Tchekhov’s ‘Zinotchka’ (1972), which was adapted by Melvyn Bragg with Charlotte Rampling in the title role.

A satire on the Common Market brought Miles and Dimitri de Grunwald together again for ‘That Lucky Touch’ (1976) which was fully financed from European sources with de Grunwald's European Film Consortium.

David Ambrose the writer, decided with Miles to re-work the plot of a script he had with Anglia Television as if it was a documentary. ‘Alternative 3’ (1977) became a sensation over night, getting headlines in two national newspapers, and causing a scandal with its supposed landings on Mars and prescient climate change forebodings. Anglia’s chairman Sir John Woolf, after the success of the film’s worldwide sales, offered Miles the chance to kick off a new series he was planning ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ by Roald Dahl. ‘Neck’ (1978) had Sir John Geilgud playing a butler for the first time.

Eager to return to his idea for a film on the life of D.H.Lawrence, Miles teamed up again with writer Alan Plater. Eventually a financier was found to back the project which had in the lead, Ian McKellen, a young actor then little known in the film world. ‘Priest of Love’ (1981) was filmed in Cornwall, Nottingham, Oaxaca, Florence, and France in the houses where Lawrence actually wrote, painted and died. The film opened the London Film Festival.

While waiting for Melina Mercouri and ERT/Greek National Television to give Miles the go-ahead for his script on how Lord Elgin purloined the marbles from the Parthenon, he made three documentaries - all with Greek connections. Daley’s Decathlon’ (1982) in which Daley Thompson not only won the event, but broke the World Record enabling Miles to get the best film existing of the first athlete in history to hold European, Commonwealth and Olympic Gold medals simultaneously. Then Miles co-wrote and directed the ‘Marathon’ (1983) for Channel 4, and ‘Aphrodisias - city of Aphrodite’ (1984). Finally Jules Dassin, (Melina Mercouri’s husband) cleared the way for the docu-drama of ‘Lord Elgin and Some Stones of No Value’ (1985) to begin shooting on the Acropolis.

On condition that Miles could continue making films, he accepted the Royal College of Art's invitation to run the Film and Television courses as Professor of Film and Television (1989 - 1993). However the promise proved unworkable, but the talented post-graduate students' films won the Fuji Prize twice during this period and were also televised.

In 1997 Miles embarked on a 3-hour television series ‘Love in the Ancient World’ (1998), for which he also wrote a book on the subject, illustrated with his own photographs. Filming took place over most of the Mediterranean basin, and in many European museums. Plato’s ‘Symposium’ was also enacted. This section was only broadcast by Bayerischer Rundfunk in Germany, but not in the USA by A&E, where Kathleen Turner hosted the program.

Finding the perfect 18th cent. house in Gloucestershire helped David Garrick and George Coleman’s 'Clandestine Marriage’ (2000) to a successful finale, which managed to survive the producers' momentary lapse in funding.

To celebrate the 28th Olympiad in Athens, Miles teamed up with ERT TV in Greece again, to examine the myths and truths of the modern Games in ‘Fire from Olympia’ (2004).

Personal life

In 1967 Miles married the painter Suzy Armstrong in Chelsea, where they lived until 1993 when they moved to Wiltshire. Their daughter Sophie is a painter and potter. In 2009 he organized and raised funds for the restoration of the 1707 Royal Coat of Arms, in their local church.

Miles is Patron of the Christopher Marlowe Society, and helped raise money in 2002 for a window in Westminster Abbey in memory of the great Elizabethan poet and playwright. He is also Vice President of the D.H.Lawrence Society; as well as a committee member of Marbles Reunited, which was created to reunite the sculptures taken from the Parthenon temple in Athens by Lord Elgin.

From her mother Clarice Remnant's father Francis Remnant, Sarah Miles claims to be the great-granddaughter of Prince Francis of Teck and thus a second cousin once removed of Elizabeth II of Great Britain.[3]


Alternative 3 - based on the TV film by David Ambrose & Christopher Miles written by Leslie Watkins First published Sphere Books Ltd (UK) - (1978) Reprinted (1980) ISBN 0-380-44677-4

Subsequently published in Athens, Greece by Konidarin Press (1978) -USA Avon Books (1979) - Spain Ediciones Martinez Roca SA (1980) - Japan by Tama Publishing Co Ltd., (1981) Reprinted (1990) – also see ‘Casebook on Alternative 3’ by Jim Keith

Love in the Ancient World’ written by Christopher Miles with John Julius Norwich First published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson UK (1997) ISBN 0-297-83586-6

Subsequently published by St Martin’s Press New York (1997) ‘Liebe in der Antike’ -VGS, Cologne,Germany (1997) Reprinted in paperback by Seven Dials UK (1998)


  • A Vol d'Oiseau (1962)
  • The Six-Sided Triangle (1963)
  • Rhythm 'n' Greens (1964)
  • Up Jumped a Swagman (1965)
  • Rue Lepic Slow Race (1967)
  • The Virgin and the Gypsy (1970)
  • A Time for Loving (1971)
  • Zinotchka - TV (1972)
  • The Maids (1974)
  • That Lucky Touch (1975)
  • Alternative 3 - TV (1977)
  • Neck TV (1978)
  • Priest of Love (1981)
  • Daley's Decathlon - TV (1982)
  • Marathon - TV (1983)
  • Aphrodisias - City of Aphrodite - TV (1984)
  • Lord Elgin and Some Stones of No Value - TV (1986)
  • Cyclone Warning Class 4 - TV (1994)
  • Love in the Ancient World - TV 3x1hr (1997)
  • The Clandestine Marriage (2000)
  • Fire from Olympia - TV (2004)


  • Skin of Our Teeth (1973)

Related books

The English Novel and the Movies - Gontarski, S.E. (Ed. Michael Klein & Gilian Parker) Frederick Ungar Publishing Co /New York - "The Virgin and the Gypsy" - An English Watercolor ISBN 0-8044-2472-1

D.H.Lawrence - Fifty Years on Film - Greiff, Louis K. (Southern Illinois University Press) 'Foxes and Gypsies on Film' ISBN 0-8093-2387-7

30 Ans de Cinéma Britannique - Raymond Lefevre & Roland Lacourbe, (presse de la Sipe) - editions cinema 76 ISBN 2-902292-00-7

Cinema in Britain - Butler, Ivan (South Brunswick and New York: A.S.Barnes & Company London: The Tantivy Press) ISBN 0-498-01133-X


External links

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