It is difficult today to find a filmography like that of the British Michael Apted, who died on January 7 at the age of 79 at his home in Los Angeles his agent has not made public the cause of his death so eclectic and free, so open to all kinds of records: from biographies of country singers and biologists in Africa to thrillers, period dramas and even an installment of the Bond saga from the Pierce Brosnan stage (just the one that starts in Bilbao), without forgetting his passion for documentaries, which led him to make the series Up, which began in 1964 with Seven-Up! and in which the lives of 14 children followed in 1964, who were then 7 years old, and which ended with its protagonists aged 63 in 2019, all in nine episodes: one every 7 years.
Apted, like many other British filmmakers,
began on television (there is a whole generation of English, from Ken Russell to Ken Loach, forged on the small screen). Born in Aylesbury on February 10, 1941, the son of an insurance company worker, English studied law at Downing College, Cambridge, and his career in audiovisuals began at Granada Television – at the time, an entire institution in North West England – in Manchester as an investigative journalist: he was the one who chose the 14 children who began to be portrayed in 1964 in Seven-Up! the documentary then directed by Canadian Paul Edmond.
At the time they were chosen as seven years old for the phrase attributed to the Jesuits Give me a child until I am seven years old and I will give you back a man which underlines how childhood marks the becoming of a human being. When Apted was offered to turn that documentary into a seven-year series in 1971 the filmmaker agreed and it became the most important achievement of his life. He finished in 2019 with 63 Up. During the seven years (curious temporary reiteration) that he was in Granada Televisión, he directed all kinds of works including episodes of Coronation Street. He never left television. in the US he directed another documentary series, Married in America with a precept similar to that of Up and even led three episodes of Rome.
On the big screen, he made his debut in 1972 with the drama The Mask and the Skin with Glenda Jackson and Oliver Reed. Behind came other titles such as The Idol (1974) or the wonderful Agatha (1979) in which Vanessa Redgrave plays the writer Agatha Christie during the 11 days she was missing. And in 1980 he released I want to be free (Coal Miner’s Daughter biography of country singer Loretta Lynn, and with which Sissy Spacek, who played the protagonist won the Oscar.
In that first decade of his career,
His love for scripts with female protagonists became clear which, in his opinion, brought more dramatic richness to the stories. In 1981 he directed a screenplay for Lawrence Kasdan in My Nest or Yours, a comedy with John Belushi, and throughout the eighties, he delivered two of his best works: Gorky Park (1983) the investigation of a triple homicide by Soviet police (William Hurt) and Gorillas in the Mist (1988) the life in Africa of the scientist Dian Fossey – to which Sigourney Weaver put a face and her fight for the protection of these great apes. The nineties perfectly portray his eclecticism Legal Action (1991) a lawyer thriller with Gene Hackman and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio Thunder heart(1992) a policeman with Val Kilmer and Sam Shepard Sola en la penumbra 1993 with Madeleine Stowe as a blind violinist on the hunt for a serial killer the drama Nell 1994 with Jodie Foster When crossing the limit (1996) a medical drama with Hugh Grant and Hackman again and ended with The world is never enough Pierce Brosnan’s bond that starts in Bilbao and that presented Denise Richards as the most incredible nuclear scientist: it was the delivery of the saga that collected the most in the 20th century. And just to review some of their work.
ethical dilemmas were contained. With the arrival of the 21st century, the pace of work or its main themes did not drop, although it was lavished more on television. Even so, for the cinema in 2001 he released Enigma, about the famous encryption machine; and then Never again (2002), about sexist violence with Jennifer Lopez Amazing Grace (2006), the life of the English antislavery William Wilberforce The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) or Open Source (2017), another thriller, this time with Noomi Rapace.
In his death,
he has been remembered, in addition to his extraordinary career, for his elegance and good character, and for his years as director (from 2003 to 2009) of the Directors’ Union.