Apted, Michael

views updated May 17 2018

APTED, Michael

Nationality: British. Born: Aylesbury, England, 10 February 1941; son of Ronald William and Frances Amelia (Thomas) Apted. Education: Downing College, Cambridge University, B.A., 1961. Family: Married Joan, 9 July 1966; children: Paul, James. Career: Researcher, director, and producer for Granada television, London, 1960s; director, Strawberry Fields, National Theatre, London, 1978; executive producer, Crossroads (C. C. Riders) TV series, ABC, 1992. Awards: TV Critics Award, for best play, for Another Sunday and Sweet F.A., 1972; TV Critics Award, for best play, SFTA award for best director, both for Kisses at Fifty, 1974; International Emmy, for The Collection, 1976; British Academy Award, for 28 Up, 1984. Address: Osiris Films, 300 South Lorimar, Building 137, Burbank, CA 91505, U.S.A. Agent: Mike Marcus, Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, U.S.A.

Films as Director:


Number 10 (for TV); Your Name's Not God, It's Edgar (for TV); Big Breadwinner Hog (for TV)


In a Cottage Hospital (for TV)


Don't Touch Him, He Might Resent It (for TV); Slattery's Mounted Foot (for TV); The Day They Buried Cleaver (for TV)


Big Soft Nellie (for TV); The Mosedale Horseshoe (for TV);One Thousand Pounds for Rosebud (for TV)


Another Sunday and Sweet F.A. (for TV); Joy (for TV); Said the Preacher (for TV); The Style of the Countess (for TV); The Reporters (for TV); Buggins' Ermine (for TV)


Triple Echo (Soldier in Skirts); High Kampf (for TV); Jack Point (for TV)


Stardust; Kisses at Fifty (for TV); Poor Girl (for TV); A Great Day for Bonzo (Childhood) (for TV)


Wednesday Love (for TV)


The Squeeze; 21 (for TV); The Collection (for TV)


Stronger than the Sun (for TV)




Coal Miner's Daughter


Continental Divide


Kipperbang (P'Tang Yang, Kipperbang); Gorky Park


28 Up (for TV) (+ pr); First Run Features; First Born; The River Rat (+ exec pr)


Bring on the Night


Critical Condition


Gorillas in the Mist


The Long Way Home (for TV)


Class Action; 35 Up (for TV) (+ pr, sc)


Thunderheart; Incident at Oglala


Blink; Nell; Moving the Mountain


Extreme Measures


Inspirations (+ pr)


Always Outnumbered (for TV); 42: Forty Two Up (+ pr)


Me & Isaac Newton; The World Is Not Enough; Nathan Dixon (for TV)



Other Films:


Spies like Us (role as Ace Tomato agent)


Criminal Justice (co-exec pr) (for TV)


Bram Stoker's Dracula (co-exec pr); Intruders: They Are among Us (mini, for TV) (exec pr); Murder without Motive: The Edmund Perry Story (Best Intentions: The Education and Killing of Edmund Perry) (co-exec pr) (mini, for TV);Age 7 in America (7 up in America) (for TV) (pr)


Strapped (for TV) (exec pr)


A Personal History if British Cinema by Stephen Frears (for TV) (role as himself)


14 Up in America (for TV) (exec pr)


The James Bond Story (role as himself)


By APTED: articles—

With Alan Parker, "One on One. Michael Apted and Alan Parker," in American Film (Marion, Ohio), vol. 15, no. 12, September 1990.

Interview with F. Arnold, in EPD Film (Frankfurt), vol. 9, no. 9, September 1992.

"Michael Apted and the Documentary Heartbeat," interview with Vincent DeVeau, in DGA (Los Angeles), vol. 19, no. 6, December-January 1994–1995.

Chaudhuri, Anita, "Mother Nurture," in Time Out (London), no. 1280, 1 March 1995.

On APTED: articles—

Roddick, N., "Michael Apted: Van dondon naar Hollywood, van televisie naar bioscoop," in Skoop, vol. 22, no. 1, February 1986.

Maude, C., "True to Life," in Time Out (London), no. 1088, 26 June 1991.

Pede, R., "Gorillas in the Mist, Apted uit di mouw," in Film andTelevisie (Brussels), no. 389, October 1989.

Interview, September, 1991.

* * *

Classic Hollywood, with its contract personnel and assembly-line approach to film production, no doubt encouraged directors to be craftsmen rather than artists. Certainly, studio workers with no pretensions to what would later be called auteurship could be counted on to do a competent, occasionally inspired job with scripts and performers of many different types. This cadre of professionals on which all five majors depended regularly turned out films that would make back their negative costs and perhaps turn a small profit at the box office. Since American film production became largely independent with the demise of the studio system in the 1960s, not many directors have been satisfied with this traditional hack role, despite the benefits it could bring. For flexibility and steady diligence are qualities that are useful in sustaining a career in an era of more limited feature production.

Michael Apted is an instructive case in point of how well such a strategy can work. Apted came to Hollywood in 1979 after a prolific, mildly celebrated stint as a director of features and documentaries for British Granada Television. Like some actors eager for steady employment (Michael Caine and Gene Hackman come to mind), Apted, since leaving Britain, has signed on to a variety of projects in order to practice his craft regularly. In part, his career is defined by his generally satisfactory, occasionally excellent handling of mainstream fiction film projects. Apted, however, is not just a very competent hack. He has remained faithful to an artistic vision as well, which was nurtured by his television work. In fact, his ordinary commercial projects have made it possible for him to continue working as a documentarist.

Apted's debut effort for Hollywood was an unusual project, Agatha, a mystery about that most enigmatic of mystery writers, Agatha Christie. Saddled with a full-of-holes plot by writers Kathleen Tynan and Arthur Hopcraft, Apted proved unable to make much sense of this women's picture story (the famed novelist disappears, only to experience an exciting, brief fling with an American newspaperman). However, he did a commendable job with coaching layered performances from the two leads, the unexpected combination of Dustin Hoffman and Vanessa Redgrave. Predictably, Apted was at his most competent with the detailed recreation of 1920s Britain, especially the lush interiors of luxury hotels.

Interestingly, several other of Apted's Hollywood films are studies in enigmatic, powerful women. Gorillas in the Mist traces the conversion of biologist Dian Fossey into an African conservationist who goes back to nature to study the primates with whom she becomes obsessed. Once again, Apted does a fine job merging Hollywood fakery (i.e., men in gorilla suits, studio sets) with the real thing (much of the film was made, in grueling fashion, on scene in Rwanda). Apted is sensitive to the twists and turns of this ultimately tragic story, including Fossey's suicidal opposition to the natives in general and poachers in particular, who are trying to kill "her" gorillas. Like these two others films, Coal Miner's Daughter is part woman's picture, part biographical picture, for the main character is here again a "real" person, country singer Loretta Lynn.

More than is the case in either Agatha or Gorillas, however, Loretta Lynn's story is melodramatized in the customary TV docudrama style. Her rise to stardom is fueled by the assistance of a mentor, the unselfish singer Patsy Cline, and the relentless, self-serving promotion of a no-good husband, appropriately named Doolittle. Yet Lynn's success, adroitly evoked by Sissy Spacek's endearing performance and excellent singing, goes beyond the power of others to instruct and direct. Even Doolittle's alcoholism and her own depression cannot derail her career, though the film seems cautionary in its depiction of the problems success creates for her personal and family life. Nell likewise focuses on an unusual woman, a girl who has grown up in savage isolation in the woodland home where her mother's death has stranded her. Discovered by a physician and a psychologist, Nell is first a "case," only later to be seen by the scientifically oriented professionals as a human being with her own needs and rights, including the opportunity to keep herself distant from civilization. This Rousseauean point is made with perhaps more sophistication in Truffaut's quite similar The Wild Child, but Apted's treatment is, if predictably heartwarming, effective nonetheless. Much the same could be said about Firstborn, which probes the effects on her children of a recently divorced woman's rebound relationship with a charming sociopath. Both these films, in the manner of docudrama, are short on coherent plot, even as they focus on suitably affecting moments of emotional crisis.

Given the enduring popularity of the form in the 1980s and 1990s, it is hardly surprising that Apted has tried his hand at thrillers as well as the contemporary woman's picture. Gorky Park, Extreme Measures, and Blink collectively demonstrate that he has little talent in either managing a narrative of generically predictable twists and turns or sustaining suspense and interest from beginning to end. In all three of these films, Apted seems uncertain whether to treat the story seriously (which would have been a smart choice with the intricate web of intrigue Martin Cruz Smith weaves in the novel version of Gorky Park) or, in the Hitchcockian manner, use it as a disposable McGuffin and concentrate on the sophisticated management of spectator emotions.

In contrast, Apted's several treatments of male and female manners, slick updatings of the classic screwball comedy, have been more generally successful. Continental Divide features a hard-bitten journalist who is both "greened" and charmed by his encounter with a reclusive ornithologist high in the Rockies. As his pride is humbled, her prejudice gives way to admiration and affection. Married at the end, they decide, however, to live apart and pursue their separate careers. Here Apted makes the most of Lawrence Kasdan's somewhat prosaic and unimaginative script. Class Action, with its courtroom opposition of old left-wing father and modern corporate daughter, recalls several Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn pairings of the 1940s and offers an entertaining dramatization of contemporary mores. Critical Condition is a Richard Pryor vehicle that, despite some interesting comment on the dubious distinction between sane and crazy behavior, proves generally unfunny.

More interesting from the point of view of cinema history perhaps is Apted's continuing work as a documentarist. In 1963, he was part of a huge sociological project undertaken by Granada Television, the interviewing of a cross-section of British seven-year olds with a view toward demonstrating the effects of social class on the directions their lives would assume. Updatings were undertaken by Granada at the fourteen and twenty-one year point, while Apted has assumed direction of the commercially released segments done at ages twenty-eight and thirty-five for the group. In those two films, 28 Up and 35 Up, Apted acts as the interviewer, showing no little talent for asking the questions that, with wit and perspicacity, often go directly to the heart of the matter.

The traditional left-wing politics of the project (which was conceived to demonstrate that in the middle of the "swinging London" era that class still mattered in the "new" Britain) are very much Apted's own, as his two other principal documentary films show. Conceived and financed by Robert Redford, Incident at Oglala examines the controversial case of Leonard Peltier, a Sioux activist convicted of murdering two FBI agents at the Oglala Reservation. The film is a tendentious, quite convincing marshaling of evidence that Peltier was framed for the crime by the FBI and thus improperly imprisoned. Thunderheart, a fiction film project conceived and produced by Robert De Niro, yet another marquee supporter of the movement for Native American justice, was likewise directed by Apted, with special permission from the tribe, on the same reservation. The plot is thin, a predictable thriller with a man of divided loyalty (an FBI agent of Indian blood) at its center; here the main interest lies in Apted's expert evocation of a way of life fallen on disastrously hard times. Much the same praise may be accorded Apted's second most impressive documentarian project Moving the Mountain, a meticulously detailed account of the student democracy movement in China that culminated in the Tian An Men square massacre in 1989. Bring on the Night shows that Apted can deal effectively with lighter material as well, in this case rock star Sting's attempt to create a band with jazz musicians after the demise of The Police.

—R. Barton Palmer

Apted, Michael 1941–

views updated May 11 2018

Apted, Michael 1941–


Full name, Michael David Apted; born February 10, 1941, in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England; son of Ronald William and Frances Amelia (maiden name, Thomas) Apted; married Joan, July 9, 1966 (divorced); married Dana; children: Paul, James. Education: Downing College, Cambridge University, B.A., history, 1963; also attended the City of London School.

Addresses: Agent—Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212; Peters Fraser & Dunlop, Drury House, 34-43 Russell St., London WC2B 5HA England.

Career: Director, producer, screenwriter, and actor. Granada Television, London, England, researcher, director, and producer during the 1960s; American Film Institute, Center for Advanced Film and Television Studies, Hollywood, CA, cochairperson of directing discipline, 1997; Michael Apted Film Co., founder; director of television commercials. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Documentary Branch), member of the board of governors, 2002–.

Member: Directors Guild of America (president, 2003–).

Awards, Honors: Television Critics Award, best play, 1972, for Another Sunday and Sweet F.A.; Golden Prize nomination, Moscow International Film Festival, 1973, for The Triple Echo; Television Critics Award, best play, and Television Award, best director, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1974, both for "Kisses at Fifty," Play for Today; International Emmy Award, 1976, for The Collection; International Emmy Award nomination, 1976, for 21; Directors Guild of America Award nomination, 1980, for Coal Miner's Daughter; Television Award nomination, best single drama, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1983, for P'tang Yang Kipperbang; International Documentary Association Award, 1985, for 28 Up; Grammy Award (with Sting), best music video—long form, 1987, for Bring on the Night; Golden St. George Award nomination, Moscow International Film Festival, 1991, for Class Action; Flaherty Documentary Award, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1992, for 35 Up; Critics Award nomination, Deauville Film Festival, 1992, for Incident at Oglala; Crystal Globe Award nomination, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, 1994, for Blink; Vancouver International Film Festival Award, best documentary feature, 1994, Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, Forum of New Cinema, Berlin International Film Festival, 1995, both for Moving the Mountain; International Documentary Association Award nomination, feature documentaries, 1998, Flaherty Documentary Award nomination (with Claire Lewis), British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1999, all for 42 Up; Career Award, DoubleTake Documentary Film Festival, 1998; Career Achievement Award, International Documentary Association, 1999; Silver Spire, television drama—television feature, San Francisco International Film Festival, 1999, for Always Outnumbered; Special Jury Award, Florida Film Festival, 2000, for Me & Isaac Newton; British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award, for The Lovers; British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award, for Folly Foot; Feature Film Prize in Science and Technology, Hamptons International Film Festival, British Independent Film Award nomination, best director 2001, both for Enigma; Directors Guild of America Award (with others), outstanding directorial achievement in dramatic series—night, 2006, for Rome.


Film Director:

Triple Echo (also known as Soldier in Skirts), Hemdale Releasing, 1973.

Stardust, Goodtimes/Anglo, 1974.

The Squeeze, Warner Bros., 1976.

Agatha, Casablanca/First Artists, 1978.

Coal Miner's Daughter, Universal, 1980.

Continental Divide, Universal, 1981.

Kipperbang (also known as P'Tang Yang, Kipperbang), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists, 1983.

Gorky Park, Orion, 1983.

28 Up (documentary), First Run Features, 1984.

First Born (also known as Firstborn and Moving In), Paramount, 1984.

Executive producer, The River Rat, Paramount, 1984.

Bring on the Night (also known as Sting: Bring on the Night), Samuel Goldwyn/A&M, 1985.

Critical Condition, Paramount, 1986.

Gorillas in the Mist (also known as Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey and The Adventures of Dian Fossey), Universal, 1988.

Class Action, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1991.

35 Up (documentary), Samuel Goldwyn, 1991.

Thunderheart, TriStar, 1992.

Incident at Oglala, Miramax, 1992.

Blink, New Line Cinema, 1994.

Moving the Mountain (documentary), October Films, 1994.

Nell, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1994.

Extreme Measures, Warner Bros., 1996.

Inspirations (documentary), Clear Blue Sky Productions, 1997.

Fortune's Fools, Fox 2000, 1998.

The World Is Not Enough (also known as Pressure Point and T.W.I.N.E.), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists, 1999.

Me & Isaac Newton, 1999.

42 Up (also known as 42: Forty Two Up), First Run Features, 1999.

Enigma (also known as Enigma—Das Geheimnis), Miramax, 2001.

Enough, Columbia, 2002.

Lipstick (short), 2002.

Amazing Grace, 2006.

Black Autumn, Fox 2000, 2006.

Film Producer:

28 Up (documentary), First Run Features, 1984.

35 Up (documentary), Samuel Goldwyn, 1991.

Inspirations (documentary), Clear Blue Sky Productions, 1997.

42 Up (also known as 42: Forty Two Up), First Run Features, 1999.

Film Executive Producer:

The River Rat, Paramount, 1984.

(With others) Bram Stoker's "Dracula" (also known as Dracula), Columbia, 1992.

It's a Shame About Ray (short), 2000.

Film Appearances:

Ace Tomato agent, Spies Like Us, Warner Bros., 1985.

Narrator and interviewer, 42 Up (documentary; also known as 42: Forty Two Up), First Run Features, 1999.

Himself, The Making of "The World Is Not Enough" (documentary), 1999.

Himself, More Than Enough (documentary short), Columbia TriStar Home Video, 2003.

Television Work; Series:

Director, Parkin's Patch, Yorkshire TV, 1969–70.

Executive producer, Crossroads (also known as C. C. Riders), ABC, 1992.

Also worked as director and investigative reporter, World in Action, ITV.

Television Work; Miniseries:

Director, Big Breadwinner Hog, Granada TV, 1968–69.

Executive producer, Intruders: They Are Among Us (also known as Intruders), CBS, 1992.

Executive producer, Murder Without Motive: The Edmund Perry Story (also known as Best Intentions: The Education and Killing of Edmund Perry and Best Intentions), NBC, 1992.

Director and consulting producer, Rome, HBO and BBC2, 2005.

Television Director; Movies:

Seven Up (documentary), 1964.

Number 10, Granada TV, 1968.

Your Name's Not God, It's Edgar, Granada TV, 1968.

In a Cottage Hospital, Granada TV, 1969.

Don't Touch Him, He Might Resent It, Granada TV, 1970.

Slattery's Mounted Foot, London Weekend TV/Kestrel Films, 1970.

The Day They Buried Cleaver, Granada TV, 1970.

Seven Plus Seven (documentary; also known as 7 Plus Seven), 1970.

Big Soft Nellie, Granada TV, 1971.

The Mosedale Horseshoe, Granada TV, 1971.

One Thousand Pounds for Rosebud, Granada TV, 1971.

Another Sunday and Sweet F.A. (also known as ITV Sunday-Night Theatre: Another Sunday and Sweet F.A.), Granada TV, 1972.

Joy, BBC, 1972.

Said the Preacher, BBC, 1972.

The Style of the Countess, Granada TV, 1972.

High Kampf (also known as Black and Blue: High Kampf), BBC, 1973.

Jack Point, BBC, 1973.

Poor Girl, Granada TV, 1974.

"A Great Day for Bonzo," Childhood, Granada TV, 1974, PBS, 1977.

Wednesday Love, BBC, 1975.

21 (documentary; also known as 21 Up), Granada TV, 1976.

The Collection (also known as Laurence Olivier Presents: The Collection), Granada TV, 1976.

P'tang Yang Kipperbang (also known as Kipperbang), Channel 4, 1984.

The Long Way Home, Yerosha Productions/Granada TV/CBS Music Video, 1989.

Always Outnumbered (also known as Socrates and Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned), HBO, 1998.

49 Up (documentary), ITV, 2005.

Also directed Highway Robbery and Age 7 in the USSR (documentary).

Television Work; Movies:

(Uncredited) Researcher, Seven Up (documentary), 1964.

Producer, Seven Plus Seven (documentary; also known as 7 Plus Seven), 1970.

Executive producer, Criminal Justice, HBO, 1990.

Producer, Age 7 in America (documentary; also known as 7 Up in America), CBS, 1992.

Executive producer, Strapped, HBO, 1993.

Producer, 49 Up (documentary), ITV, 2005.

Television Director; Pilots:

The Dustbinmen, ITV, 1969.

My Life and Times, ABC, 1991.

Crossroads (also known as C. C. Riders), ABC, 1992.

New York News, CBS, 1995.

Marriage, HBO, 2004.

Television Work; Specials:

Director, Murder: A Professional Job, Granada, 1968.

Director, There's a Hole in Your Dustbin Delilah, Granada, 1968.

Director, Buggins' Ermine, Granada TV, 1972.

Director, Haunted: Poor Girl, 1986.

Executive producer, 14 Up in America, Showtime, 1998.

Consulting executive, Born in the USSR: 14 Up, PBS, 1999.

Director, Nathan Dixon, CBS, 1999.

Advisor, Being Mick (documentary), ABC, 2001.

Director and producer, Married in America (documentary), Arts and Entertainment, 2002.

Television Director; Episodic:

"The Shooting War," City '68, Granada TV, 1967.

"There's a Hole in Your Dustbin, Delilah," Playhouse, Granada TV, 1968.

The Lovers, Granada TV, 1970.

"The Reporters," Play for Today, BBC, 1972.

"Kisses at Fifty," Play for Today, BBC, 1973.

"Stronger Than the Sun," Play for Today, BBC, 1977.

Blind Justice, ABC, 2004.

Also directed Coronation Street (also known as Corrie), ITV and CBC; Thirty-Minute Theatre, BBC; Haunted; Big Breadwinner Hog, ITV; Folly Foot, ITV; Black and Blue, BBC; My Life and Times, ABC; Crossroads, Arts and Entertainment; New York News, CBS.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Himself, The Making of "Gorky Park" (documentary), 1983.

(Uncredited) Voice of interviewer, 28 Up (documentary), Granada TV, 1984.

(Uncredited) Voice of interviewer, 35 Up (documentary), Granada TV, 1991.

A Personal History of British Cinema by Stephen Frears (documentary; also known as Typically British!), 1997.

Himself, The James Bond Story (also known as 007: The James Bond Story; documentary), 1999.

Himself, Best Ever Bond (documentary), ITV1, 2002.

Himself, James Bond: A BAFTA Tribute, BBC, 2002.

Himself, ITV 50 Greatest Shows, ITV, 2005.

Narrator/interviewer, 49 Up (documentary), ITV, 2005.

Himself, The 50 Greatest Documentaries (documentary), 2005.

Bleep! Censoring Hollywood (documentary), AMC, 2005.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Mad TV, Fox, 1999.

This Morning (also known as This Morning with Richard and Judy), ITV, 2005.

Stage Work:

Director, Strawberry Fields, National Theatre, London, 1978.



Bring on the Night (also known as Sting: Bring on the Night), 1985.

35 Up (documentary), Samuel Goldwyn, 1991.

Moving the Mountain (documentary), October Films, 1994.



International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 2: Directors, 4th ed., St. James Press, 2000.


American Film, September, 1990, p. 42.

Interview, September, 1991.

PR Newswire, June 14, 1999.

Shoot, October 24, 1997, p. 1.

Sunday Times Review (London), June 16, 1991.

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