January 30, 2023


Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Michael Apted dead: acclaimed ‘7 Up’ director was 79

Michael Apted, the accomplished British director of movies and TV — including “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and the decades-long “Up” documentary series — died Thursday night, his publicist confirmed Friday. He was 79. No further details, including cause of death, were given.

“Our hearts are heavy today as we mourn the passing of esteemed director, longtime DGA leader and my friend Michael Apted,” Directors Guild of America President Thomas Schlamme said in a statement. “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.”

Apted’s’ “Up” series, which concluded in 2019 with the premiere of “63 Up,” was the result of 56 years of work by the director. Starting with the “7 Up” episode of the documentary series “World in Action,” which aired in 1963, it tracked the same subjects for all those years, interviewing them at seven-year intervals beginning at age 7.

“On a grand scale the project considers if there is any truth to the class-conscious idea behind the original film, the Jesuit notion of ‘Give me the child until he is 7 and I will give you the man,’” wrote former Times film critic Kenneth Turan in his review of “63 Up.” “But also being presented is a chance to see what the passage of years has done to the mind-set and the lives of individuals we have spent so much time with over so many decades they’ve become a quasi-family.”

The series had a slew of loyal followers.

More recently, Apted directed episodes of Netflix’s “Bloodline” and Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” and “Masters of Sex,” plus the feature “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.”

Apted was also very involved in DGA leadership, including serving as the guild’s president for three terms from 2003 to 2009.

“Michael led with strength, tremendous sensitivity and heart,” former longtime DGA National Executive Director Jay D. Roth said in a statement Friday. Roth worked closely with Apted for two decades.

“He became passionate about the Guild after his creative rights fight around the deletion of 30 minutes from his carefully researched film, Thunderheart, about Native Americans. He would go on to help create our Independent Directors Committee, bringing new blood into the Guild, and quickly became involved in governance and leadership. And while independent film, creative rights and documentaries were his passion, it was not long before he became President of the DGA,” Roth said.

Added Schlamme: “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.”

Apted is survived by his wife, Paige, and children Jim, John and Lily.