Michael Apted, “Up” Series and “The World Is Not Enough” Director, Dead at 79

He also directed "Coal Miner's Daughter" and "Continental Divide," among others

Directors Guild Of America Feature Film Awaerd Nominations
Directors Guild of America President Michael Apted attends the nominations for the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Films for 2006 on January 9, 2007 at the DGA headquarters in Los Angeles, California.
Vince Bucci/Getty Images

Michael Apted’s long career as a filmmaker included a number of high points, including directing the Loretta Lynn biopic Coal Miner’s Daughter and the James Bond adventure The World Is Not Enough. Apted’s most lasting legacy as a filmmaker, however, may come from his work as a documentarian — The Up Series, which followed the same group of people at 7-year intervals for over half a century, is regarded as a towering achievement in documentary film.

The Hollywood Reporter and other publications report that Apted has died at the age of 79, with Roy Ashton at the Gersh Agency confirming the news. No additional details have been provided at this time.

Several of Apted’s narrative films were biopics, including Coal Miner’s Daughter — which won an Academy Award for its star, Sissy Spacek — and 1988’s Gorillas in the Mist. Coal Miner’s Daughter was also added to the National Film Registry in 2019. Apted directed John Belushi to great acclaim in 1981’s Continental Divide; he also directed Pierce Brosnan’s third film as James Bond, 1999’s The World Is Not Enough.

And then there’s the Up series. Discussing them in 1998, Roger Ebert explained their structure and their appeal. “Every seven years, the British director Michael Apted revisits a group of people whose lives he has been chronicling since they were children. As he chats with them about how things are going, his films penetrate to the central mystery of life,” Ebert wrote.

The latest installment in the series, 63 Up, debuted in 2019 to critical acclaim. At IndieWire, David Ehrlich wrote of the film that “the ‘Up’ series has become a singular portrait of life itself: of its freedoms and limitations; of its differences and similarities; of its predictability and chaos.”

In November 2019, a Gideon Lewis-Kraus article in The New York Times Magazine looked at both the series to date and Apted’s work on film. t the time, Apted spoke candidly about his health. “I’m not going to be well enough to make another of these — it’s an irony that here are the bookends of my life,” he told Lewis-Kraus. It’s hard to imagine the world of film without Apted, and without the series he guided for so many years.

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