British filmmaker Michael Apted, who directed both the Up documentary series and Coal Miner’s Daughter, has died. He was 79.
His death was confirmed by his agency to The Hollywood Reporter earlier on Friday. No additional details of his death are known.
“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,” wrote Thomas Schlamme, president of the Directors Guild of America, in a statement. Apted served as president of the DGA from 2003 to 2009.
Apted is perhaps best known for the Up series. Apted took over the series from Canadian director Paul Almond from its first sequel, 7 Plus Seven. In it, he followed and recorded the lives of young Britons, revisiting them every seven years from the age of seven to 63. The series won numerous awards, including three BAFTA awards. The fourth — 28 Up — was listed among movie reviewer Roger Ebert’s 10 greatest films of all time.
The last film in the series, 63 Up, released in late 2019. In an interview with CBC’s q ahead of its release, Apted spoke about the special relationship that developed between himself and the subjects of his documentary, which began in 1964.
“This relationship, because it started so young and so many of them are still alive and with it … it always comes up,” Apted said. “So it’s part of their lives, part of their armoury in life that they’ve been in this. Because it’s been successful from the very beginning, to our surprise.”
He also spoke about the participants’ reaction to their own fame, which grew steadily as the documentary series became internationally renowned.
“I think they’re all pleased with it, as we all are on the other side of it,” he said. “It is very much a family. So we do feel loyalty toward it, and we do feel loyalty to each other, I think.”
Apted’s 1980 film Coal Miner’s Daughter was also critically and commercially successful: it was nominated for best picture at the 53rd Academy Awards, while star Sissy Spacek won best actress. Apted also directed the Bond film The World Is Not Enough in 1999, as well as several TV series, including Coronation Street, ITV Playhouse and — more recently — Netflix’s Bloodline.
Apted is survived by his wife Paige Simpson and children Jim, John and Lily.