JAMES Bond director Michael Apted had Sheffield Doc/Fest organisers in double-0 heaven – praising this year’s programme as a ‘licence to thrill’, writes Graham Walker.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch our video chat with Michael Apted.
Apted, aged 71, one of the most prolific British film and TV directors of his generation, was a headline guest of the city’s annual five-day documentary festival, which runs until Sunday.
He spoke to film-makers and fans about his Up films, the award-winning documentary series which has followed the lives of ordinary people every seven years since 1964.
But he also discussed his other work, from directing Coronation Street to Hollywood blockbusters including Agatha, Gorillas in The Mist, Gorky Park, Coal Miner’s Daughter, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and 1999 Bond film, The World Is Not Enough.
And with other festival highlights including 120 screenings, 11 world premieres, free outdoor film shows on the Howard Street Screen and talks by other big names, he said Doc/Fest had put the city on the film-making world map.
Speaking to The Star ahead of his talk at Sheffield Town Hall, he said of the festival: “A licence to thrill? I think so, yes. This film festival is top of the notch. Doc/Fest is very important to Sheffield.
“I’ve been here before and I’m amazed how much the festival has grown. It’s now maybe one of the two biggest documentary festivals in the world.
“It puts Sheffield on the map and the city becomes part of the language of the audio-visual world.”
His advice to budding film-makers was to use low-cost technology to get on with the job.
He said: “When I was growing up you needed a big crew, film stock and it was expensive. My advice to film-makers at DocFest is get on and do the job – especially in this age of technology.
“I’m here mainly talking about 56 Up. I believe this is ITV’s first real appearance at this festival - to show the world ITV is interested in doing documentaries.
“Up seems to get more interesting as it gets older.
“People get to an age when they start thinking about grandchildren and mortality.
“If people are still interested and they seem to be – I’ll keep going as long as I’m above ground or I’ve got my marbles.”
The World Is Not Enough, with Pierce Brosnan, was the first Bond film to have a woman as the main villain and Apted gave more screen time than usual to M, played by Judi Dench.
He dismissed suggestions that it was to compensate for not choosing enough women to feature in his Up films.
But he added: “I was very obsessed that we didn’t have enough women in the Up films and the Bond people came to me because they wanted to attracted more of a female audience - they wanted to put women in a more central role. I have done a lot of movies with women at the centre of it. It’s part of the big picture of my career.
“I’m looking forward to the new Bond film and to see what they’ve done with it. Daniel Craig is a wonderful actor and it will be interesting to see how they develop him. The first two films have been very violent.
The greatest Bond of all time?
“I personally think Pierce was great. But Sean Connery was unbelievable. He wrote the book, didn’t he? He had a terrific range of acting. He could be brutal, the next minute charming, the next minute a great lover. Bond needs to have all these different skills.”