Michael Apted, Director of 'Coal Miner's Daughter' and 'Seven Up' Documentaries, Dies at 79

Michael Apted, Director of 'Coal Miner's Daughter' and 'Seven Up' Documentaries, Dies at 79

01/08/2021

Michael Apted, the filmmaker behind films like The Coal Miner’s Daughter and the decades-spanning Up documentary series, has died. He was 79.

Acclaimed British filmmaker Michael Apted, best known for his acclaimed series of Seven Up documentaries as well as feature films like Coal Miner’s DaughterNell and The World Is Not Enough, has died at age 79, his agency confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. No further details are yet known.

Born on February 10, 1941, in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England, Apted was working as a trainee at Granada Television in 1964 when he was tasked with finding 14 children who would be interviewed for a 40-minute ITV documentary called Seven Up! The documentary, directed by Paul Almond, was designed to be a one-off project, but Granada made the unusual choice of checking back in with those children in 1970, this time putting Apted in charge as producer and director. The result was a revolutionary documentary series in which Apted played a pivotal role, helming every subsequent edition of what has now been dubbed the Up series: 21 Up (1977), 28 Up (1984),  35 Up (1991), 42 Up (1998), 49 Up (2005), 56 Up (2012), and finally, 63 Up (2019). The Up documentaries were still going strong with the most recent entry, which raises the question of whether the films will continue after Apted’s passing.

But Apted would be known for more than directing documentaries, even though he helmed his fair share of them, including 1985’s Bring on the Night, and the 1997 doc Inspirations, which focused on David Bowie and six other artists. Apted is also known for directing Coal Miner’s Daughter, a 1980 drama that earned Sissy Spacek an Oscar for her performance as Loretta Lynn and seven other nominations, including Best Picture. Apted also directed Jodie Foster and Sigourney Weaver to Best Actress Oscar nods in Nell (1994) and Gorillas in the Mist (1988) before making his biggest Hollywood tentpole, the 1999 James Bond flick The World is Not Enough, starring Pierce Brosnan.

Apted wouldn’t tackle many more big Hollywood blockbuster productions again, with the exception of 2010’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which subsequently became the last installment in the film series

More recently, Apted directed Amazing Grace (2006), Chasing Mavericks (2012) — taking over after Curtis Hanson exited — and Unlocked (2017), as well as episodes of Ray DonovanMasters of Sex and Bloodline.

Apted served for three terms as the DGA president from 2003 to 2009, and received the guild’s Robert B. Aldrich Award in 2013 and its Honorary Life Member honor five years later. He also was a member of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences board of governors.

Apted is survived by his wife, Paige Simpson, sons Jim and John, and daughter Lily Mellis.

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