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SYFY WIRE obituary

Michael Apted, director of James Bond, Narnia & more, passes away at 79

By Benjamin Bullard
Director Michael Apted

Michael Apted, the prolific director whose long career spanned six decades and touched genres spanning thrillers, dramas, comedies, fantasy, documentaries, and more, has passed away, according to multiple media outlets. He was 79.

Known to James Bond fans as the director of 1999’s The World is Not Enough, Apted achieved the heights of critical and commercial film success on the strength of now-classic films like Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980), Gorillas in the Mist (1988), and the remarkable Up! TV documentary project, which spanned decades and updated the lives of 14 British children, beginning from the age of 7, over the course of 56 years.

It was Apted’s early critical success that inspired film studios to hand him the reins to genre features like The World is Not Enough and the big-screen adaptation of The Chronicles of NarniaThe Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010). Through the course of his career, he would go on to work with a host of A-list acting talent from film generations both old and new, with two of his films collecting a total of 8 Academy Award nominations. Coal Miner’s Daughter (starring Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn) received 7 Oscar nods, while Nell (starring Jodie Foster in 1994 as a woman isolated from society) received one.

Apted was equally prolific in television as in film, with the now-lost 1967 British supernatural series Haunted among his earliest projects. He directed the first three episodes of the 2005-2007 historical drama series Rome, as well as the the well-received 1999 science documentary Me & Isaac Newton for the big screen, which chronicled prominent contemporary scientists’ thoughts on technological and scientific advancement.

Many of Apted’s later film projects were genre-adjacent thrillers and mystery capers that drew big-name star power for the screen. Beginning with the 1983 spy thriller Gorky Park (featuring Lee Marvin and an early-career William Hurt), Apted’s thriller résumé also included 1993’s Blink (starring Madeline Stowe), 1996’s Extreme Measures (starring Hugh Grant and Gene Hackman), the 2001 espionage thriller Enigma (starring Kate Winslet), 2002’s Enough (starring Jennifer Lopez), and the 2017 thriller Unlocked (starring Noomi Rapace and an A-list cast featuring Orlando Bloom, Michael Douglas, John Malkovich, and Toni Collette).

Though Apted never won an Academy Award, his work on Nell earned the film three Golden Globes. Among his many other industry honors, Apted also was elected, in 2003, to serve as president of the Directors' Guild of America. He was born Michael David Apted in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England on Feb. 10, 1941, and spent the early part of his TV and film career in Britain before making the move to America shortly after the success of Coal Miner’s Daughter in the early 1980s.