Remembering Director Michael Apted The award-winning English director Michael Apted died Friday.

Remembering Director Michael Apted

Remembering Director Michael Apted

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The award-winning English director Michael Apted died Friday.


Imagine spending most of your life on one creative project.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: In 1963, filmmaker Michael Apted started working on a black-and-white British documentary about a group of 7-year-old school kids. "Seven Up!" was inspired by an old Jesuit saying.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Give me a child until he is 7. And I will give you the man.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: More than 50 years later, Michael Apted was still following these, well, no longer children in an epic, longitudinal project known as the "Up" series. Every seven years, his team has made a new documentary following this group. Michael Apted died Thursday in Los Angeles at the age of 79. NPR's Neda Ulaby has our remembrance.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Michael Apted's expansive vision ranged from "Seven Up!" to 007.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) James.

ULABY: He made a James Bond movie, "The World Is Not Enough," and dramas like "Gorky Park," "Gorillas In The Mist" and "Coal Miner's Daughter" that earned a best actress Oscar for star Sissy Spacek. But Apted's favorite child was the "Up" series, which found a massive international following.


MICHAEL APTED: What can I say? I mean, it's the favorite thing I've ever done, the thing I'm most proud of.

ULABY: Apted on WHYY's Fresh Air in 2013. The series was supposed to explore British class inequality through children, from posh to poor to working-class kids like 7-year-old Tony.


TONY: I want to be a jockey when I grow up. Yeah. I want to be a jockey when I grow up.

ULABY: But the "Up" series became something more. Over nine installments, the kids grew up, married, experienced homelessness, became lawyers, teachers, grandparents. Nearly all stuck with the series.


APTED: You know, it's like a sort of great Victorian novel. You know, the people move half an inch a year. You know, it's the heroism of ordinary life.

ULABY: Apted was promoting "56 Up" in 2013 when he was interviewed on WNYC's "On The Media" along with Tony, the erstwhile kid who wanted to be a jockey. Host Brooke Gladstone asked how long Apted expected the series to go.


APTED: Well, I know what I hope. I hope to do 84 Up when I'll be 99.


APTED: And then we'll call it quits.

TONY: We'll be both going down to the post office, Michael, drawing our pension books together then.

APTED: I'm already doing that.


ULABY: The "Up" series has drawn criticism over its gender representation and the very class issues it intended to expose. But Apted, an upper-middle class kid himself, listened. He included his subjects' criticism in the story they ultimately shared. Apted has said producer Claire Lewis may be his heir. If 70 Up comes out in 2026, it'll be the project of a lifetime that honours its creator through living. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.