“Up” series filmmaker Michael Apted passes away at 79

Film and television director Michael Apted, helmer of one of the most acclaimed series in the documentary genre, has passed away at the age of 79, Realscreen has confirmed. A ...
January 8, 2021

Film and television director Michael Apted, helmer of one of the most acclaimed series in the documentary genre, has passed away at the age of 79, Realscreen has confirmed. A cause of death has not yet been released to press.

Having begun his screen career with Granada TV in the early 1960s and via episodes for such series as Coronation Street, Apted directed the bulk of the Up series of documentaries, which began with 1964′s Seven Up for ITV and extended to 2019′s 63 Up. The original 40-minute doc followed 14 British children and was helmed by Canadian director Paul Almond, with Apted initially responsible for finding the participants. He was then given the next installment — 7 Plus Seven — to direct and helmed each subsequent sequel. Each film appeared on ITV with the exception of 1998′s 42 Up for BBC1.

The series was awarded with a special Peabody Institutional Award in 2012.

Other documentaries from Apted included Bring On the Night, featuring musician Sting; The Long Way Home, which followed Soviet underground musician Boris Grebenshchikov; 1992′s Incident at Oglala; 1994′s Moving The Mountain and 1997′s Inspirations.

In addition to the Up series, Apted had a successful career as a director of scripted features, including his feature debut, 1972′s The Triple Echo, 1974′s Stardust, 1980′s Coal Miner’s Daughter with Sissy Spacek, Gorky Park with William Hurt, 1994′s Nell, and the 1999 installment of the James Bond franchise, The World Is Not Enough, among several others.

Apted served as president of the Directors Guild of America (DGA) for three terms from 2003-2009. Following his presidency, Apted served as co-chair of the DGA Negotiating Committee, together with current DGA President Thomas Schlamme, in the 2014 and 2017 terms.

Schlamme said in a statement from the DGA: “Our hearts are heavy today as we mourn the passing of esteemed director, longtime DGA leader and my friend Michael Apted. His legacy will be forever woven into the fabric of cinema and our Guild. A fearless visionary as a director and unparalleled Guild leader, Michael saw the trajectory of things when others didn’t, and we were all the beneficiaries of his wisdom and lifelong dedication.

“Whether having the foresight as a young man to conceptualize the revolutionary documentary series 7 Up or helming large-scale features, whether negotiating directors’ rights throughout our industry’s digital revolution, or advocating for independent filmmakers and inclusion, Michael’s search for the truth and what’s right was evident in all that he endeavored. With his steady hand, acerbic wit, and keen eye to the future, he has steered our Guild through times of great change, setting the path for our industry and benefiting thousands and thousands of us. He always generously extended a hand to those behind him and understood the importance of activating leadership in the next generation.

“What I thought was an innocent lunch with him 20 years ago turned into my lifelong commitment to this Guild, all thanks to his passion and belief in me,” he added. “I, like so many others, will be forever grateful for his mentorship. Words can’t express how much he will be missed. Our hearts go out to his wife Paige, and his children Jim, John, and Lily.”

Film director Steven Soderbergh, who served with Apted at the DGA as national vice president and creative rights committee co-chair, said: “I spent countless hours literally two feet from Michael and loved every minute of it. Apart from his own remarkable body of work, what he gave to the DGA can’t be measured; he put his entire being into the Guild, and inspired us all to follow his example. We were lucky to have him and to know him.”

In tandem with the release of the last edition of the Up series, 63 Up, Apted received a Lifetime Achievement award from Doc NYC, along with Martin Scorsese, in the fall of 2019. Apted said he was keen to continue the series, telling the San Francisco Examiner, “I’ll do another one in another six and a half years; I’m 78 and blessed with good health.”

(Image: DGA)

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