Iconic film director Michael Apted, famed for his Up series of documentaries, has passed away at the age of 79. While the details of Apted’s passing have yet to be released, Roy Ashton at the Gersh Agency confirmed the filmmaker’s death in a statement issued to The Hollywood Reporter.
Apted, who started his career in the realm of television as a trainee at Granada Television, would go on to work his way through the film industry from researcher and into actor, producer, writer and director. His series of Up documentaries, which follows the lives of fourteen British seven-year-olds since 1964, ran for an astonishing 56 years. In Up, Apted revisited the documentary subjects every seven years and created nine episodes in total. “The series was an attempt to do a long view of English society,” Apted previously in an interview last year. “The class system needed a kick up the backside.”
Alongside his pioneering documentary series, Apted successfully transitioned into mainstream feature films with a string of immensely popular works such as the 1980 film Coal Miner’s Daughter, 1999 James Bond film The World Is Not Enough and more. Despite creating well over 20 feature films in total, Coal Miner’s Daughter remains his magnum opus, receiving an astonishing seven Academy Award nominations which resulted in Sissy Spacek winning Best Actress. “What I like about women at the centre of films is that I find that a woman character brings a lot of emotion to a story, whatever a story is,” he said in an interview. “Whether it’s a woman with gorillas or a country music singer, a woman’s emotional life – at least on the surface – is more dramatic than a man’s.”
In reaction to Apted’s death, Thomas Schlamme, the president of the Directors Guild of America, described the director as “fearless visionary” before explaining that he “saw the trajectory of things when others didn’t and we were all beneficiaries of his wisdom and lifelong dedication”.
In an interview with the BBC, Schlamme said that the Up series “demonstrated the possibilities of television at its finest in its ambition and its capacity to hold up a mirror to society and engage with and entertain people while enriching our perspective on the human condition.”
He added: “The influence of Michael’s contribution to film and programme-making continues to be felt and he will be sadly missed.”
See more of the tributes, below.