Film director Michael Apted, best known for the Up series of TV documentaries following the lives of 14 people every seven years, has died aged 79.
He also directed Coal Miner’s Daughter, Gorillas In The Mist and the 1999 Bond movie The World Is Not Enough.
The original 7 Up in 1964 set out to document the life prospects of a range of children from all walks of life.
The show was inspired by the Aristotle quote “give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man”.
The first 7 Up show was followed by 14 Up at the start of the next decade, which interviewed the same children as teenagers – and the pattern was set right up until 63 Up in 2019.
Throughout all those intervening years ITV viewers became engrossed with the stories of private school trio Andrew, Charles and John, of Jackie who went through two divorces, of Nick who went from jobless and homeless to Liberal Democrat councillor, and of working class chatterbox Tony, whose life ambition was to become a jockey.
Apted’s shows – which won three Bafta awards – have often been described as the forerunner of modern-day reality TV series, giving its participants the time to tell their own stories on screen.
But unlike their modern counterparts, the original Up children tended to fade away from the limelight in the seven years between each chapter.
In 2008, Apted was made a companion of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to the British film and television industries.
Thomas Schlamme, president of the Directors Guild of America, said Apted was a “fearless visionary” whose legacy would live on.
He said Apted, who was born in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, “saw the trajectory of things when others didn’t and we were all beneficiaries of his wisdom and lifelong dedication”.
ITV’s managing director Kevin Lygo said the director’s six-decade career was “in itself truly remarkable”.
He said 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”.
“The influence of Michael’s contribution to film and programme-making continues to be felt and he will be sadly missed,” Lygo added.
Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, producers of the James Bond film franchise, said Apted “was a director of enormous talent” and “beloved by all those who worked with him”.
“We loved working with him on The World Is Not Enough and send our love and support to his family, friends and colleagues,” they said.
A post on the Twitter account of the band Garbage, who performed the theme for The World Is Not Enough, labelled Apted a “delightful, charming soul”.
Rest in peace Michael Apted. You delightful, charming soul. Thank you for sprinkling us with some of your stardust. #theworldisnotenough
— Garbage (@garbage) January 8, 2021
Composer David G Arnold, who composed the Bond theme and worked with Apted on three other non-Bond movies, said he felt “lucky” to work with him.
“A more trusting, funny, friendly and, most importantly, kind, person you’d never meet. So pleased to have known him and so sad that he’s gone,” Arnold wrote on Twitter.