Michael Apted

Michael Apted
Michael Apted

Michael Apted, April 2007
Born 10 February 1941 (1941-02-10) (age 70)
Buckinghamshire, England
Occupation Film director

Michael David Apted, CMG (born 10 February 1941) is an English director, producer, writer and actor. He is one of the most prolific British film directors of his generation but is best known for his work on the Up Series of documentaries and the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough.

On 29 June 2003 he was elected president of the Directors Guild of America. He returned to television, directing the first three episodes of the TV series Rome. Apted directed Amazing Grace which premiered at the closing of the Toronto Film Festival in 2006. His most recent feature film project was The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader which premiered 30 November 2010 at the Royal Film Performance. He was appointed Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 2008 Birthday Honours.[1]


Early life

Apted was born to a middle-class family in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, the son of Frances Amelia (née Thomas) and Ronald William Apted,[2] who worked for an insurance company. Michael Apted secured a scholarship to attend City of London School and then to study law and history at Downing College, Cambridge.[2]



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 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 a researcher and assistant to Canadian director Paul Almond, 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. It 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 instalment, the series is a dramatic look at the lives of ordinary (and not-so-ordinary) people over the years. The latest version, 49 Up, was produced in 2005 and Apted has said that he hopes to be able to make 56 Up, at which time he will be 72.

During his seven-year stay at Granada, Apted also directed a number of episodes of Coronation Street, then written by Jack Rosenthal. Apted and Rosenthal went on to collaborate on a number of popular television and film projects including the pilot episodes for The Dustbinmen and The Lovers. They teamed up again in 1982 for the TV movie P'tang, Yang, Kipperbang, the first film commissioned by Britain's Channel 4.

In 1976 he 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.

For his work in television, Apted has won several British Academy Awards, including one for 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 Puttnam. 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 has returned to several times.

In 1979 he directed the Hollywood-financed Agatha, featuring Vanessa Redgrave.[3] The majority of Apted's feature films since then have been based around a female protagonist. He went to the United States in 1980, where he 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.[4][5] Sigourney Weaver and Jodie Foster have also earned Academy Award nominations for their work in Apted-directed 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 whistleblower, and Extreme Measures is about medical ethics.

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


In addition to feature films, Apted has continued directing 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 documentary The Long Way Home,[6] which chronicled the UK, US and USSR adventures of Boris Grebenshikov, the first Soviet underground musician allowed to record in the West. Before the making of Thunderheart, Apted made the documentary Incident at Oglala about convicted murderer Leonard Peltier. And Incident at Oglala then informed Thunderheart in the casting of actors for the fiction film. In 1997, he explored the creative process in Inspirations through candid discussion with seven artists from diverse media, including music, painting, dance, sculpture, and architecture.

In a departure from his earlier work, from 1992–94, 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.

In 2006, Apted directed The Official Film of the 2006 FIFA World Cup,[7] narrated by Pierce Brosnan.

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


  1. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 58729. p. 2. 14 June 2008.
  2. ^ a b Michael Apted Biography (1941–)
  3. ^ Agatha at the Internet Movie Database
  4. ^ Sissy Spacek and Michael Apted. Feature commentary track, Coal Miner's Daughter 25th Anniversary/Collector's Edition, 2005.
  5. ^ Interview with Loretta Lynn and Michael Apted. Featurette on Coal Miner's Daughter 25th Anniversary/Collector's Edition DVD, 2005.
  6. ^ The Long Way Home at the Internet Movie Database
  7. ^ The Official Film of the 2006 FIFA World Cup at the Internet Movie Database
Preceded by
Roger Spottiswoode
Official James Bond Film Director
Succeeded by
Lee Tamahori

External links

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