Michael Apted is clearly a director of contradictions. On the one hand, his films can
be very genre-based, such as Extreme Measures or of course, his current project, The World
is Not Enough. On the other hand, Apted effortlessly switches to the less commercial world
of documentary cinema, exemplified by the UP series that have taken up a proportion of his
working life. The Bond film and 42 UP represent the two sides of Michael Apted.
"I was just thinking that when I do 42 UP there's about eight of us and two vans,
while on Bond there's 650 and Christ knows how many vehicles." But the director
wouldn't have it any other way. "I've always enjoyed the changes of rhythm of doing a
documentary and a movie. They have their strengths and weaknesses, and it's nice to have a
change. I've always felt that it's a two-way street and they influence each other, so
one's not necessarily more important or easier than the other. They both have their own
challenges and it's fun to move around in that way, though I must concede that these two
are a little bit extreme."
"bring his experiences as both a documentary and
narrative filmmaker to all films."
Though these two films are poles apart, Apted does try and bring his experiences as
both a documentary and narrative filmmaker to all films. "All the lessons you learnt
about construction, dealing with people and actors, a lot of that comes to bear in
documentaries. In addition, the other way around, the kind of spirit and sensibilities I
bring to a Bond film, I think, comes from a documentary root."
Apted was a mere 22 years old when he discovered the 14 kids that would make up what
would emerge as one of the most successful documentary series in film history. Though he
didn't direct 7 UP, Apted still sees the film series as "kind of bookmarks of my
life. It was the first job I ever did, and here I am talking to you, so it does span your
whole life. That's why I think it's not just the most significant piece of work that I'll
ever do, but also it has a tremendous emotional resonance for me, because it has in fact
spanned my working life, and all the changes I've gone through."
The UP series is not only a detailed history of these children – adolescents -
adults, but also the social and political history of Britain. Much has changed in British
society since Apted worked on 7 UP. "If I were to start again now on the series, it
would not be the same issues. The issues that I started out were things like class and
opportunity, and clearly those issues have changed. I mean they're probably still there,
but I have a feeling that life for these people's children is different from the life it
was for them, which I think is a big issue."
Apted points out that films have emerged as being much broader than narrow social
documents. "I have a feeling that they've moved from being social histories to
observations of the human condition. What these people go through is what we all go
through. It's all about growing up, getting old, dealing with issues, having kids and so
forth. So while it's political and social, that's more under the corner of the eye."
"we are part of a family."
Apted has, over the decades, become close to his subjects, so one must ponder the
inevitable: dealing with the possibility of one of them dying, or just the ageism of the
'kids'. "It's all a double-edged sword, in a way. On the one hand we're all getting
older, but we're also getting closer, so I get more out of it and they get more out of me
as they get older. The gap between us diminishes incredibly quickly." So the question
of death rears its ugly head, and Apted has no idea what would happen should he outlive
one or more of his subjects. "I can hardly dare to contemplate it, because for better
or worse, we are part of a family."
With its $100 million budget and high expectations, The World is not Enough. represents
a very different side to the diverse director. He was happy to devote 15 months of his
life to the project "because they asked me." But also, because Brosnan and the
producers wanted to take 007 on a different direction, and Apted was the kind of director
to chart that new course.
"The reason they asked me to do it, was that they wanted better stuff behind the
action sequences, and a lot of that impetus came from Pierce, who wanted more stuff to
play, better stories to be in and better relationships. He just wanted better scenes to
do, rather than spend six months shooting guns. They also wanted to get more out of the
women so that they weren't just sexual decorations. I have three of the most beautiful
women in the film, but they're more active, more a part of the story."
As with the Bond films, little is known about 007's 19th adventure on the big screen.
What we do know, is that this time around, Bond is unable to prevent the assassination of
his wealthy oil baron friend, Lord King, causing him to doubt his ability as he ages.
Meanwhile having last been an ally to Bond in Goldeneye, Robbie Coltrane returns as
Zukovsky, the ex-KGB man, who teams up with villain Renard (Robert Carlisle) to steal the
vast pipelines that Lord King possessed. Bond has to save the mysterious daughter of his
late friend, and together with her and his other female confidante, a doctor played by
Denise Richards, foil Renard's plan.
"it is a difficult tightrope to walk." on
The World is Not Enough
Apted, speaking on day 105 of shooting with a week to go was about to "starts the
scramble to get it ready on time." Asked how he thinks this Bond will compare to its
predecessors, Apted just hopes "it's as good, and nobody says: God, what's he done to
it!?" Apted concedes that "it is a difficult tightrope to walk. You want to
deliver what people want and expect, but at the same time the Broccolis and Pierce wanted
something slightly different." Apted admits he was a Bond fan when growing up.
"It's been a part of my life, part of the film culture I grew up in." Now Apted
becomes part of Bond - and film - history. "That was another reason for wanting to do
this. The exposure is extraordinary."
(THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH WILL BE RELEASED LATE NOVEMBER.)