British boycott Apted's dream of a 'Seven Up' on married life

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A proposal by the director Michael Apted for a series following the fortunes of newly-weds in the style of his acclaimed 7 Up documentaries was repeatedly turned down by British broadcasters before being commissioned in the United States.

Despite his recent success with Hollywood thrillers, Apted was so determined to return to television and extend the 7 Up concept that he spent nearly eight years trying to get the BBC and Granada Television to commit themselves, but neither was interested. So he took the project to America, where nine couples agreed to have their relationships tracked by his cameras over the coming years.

Although Apted is based in Los Angeles, he said he wanted to make the series in Britain, where he began his career with Granada in Manchester making documentaries and directing episodes of Coronation Street.

"I would have liked to have done it here simply because these are my documentary roots," he said. "I was gob-smacked that I couldn't get anyone interested. I tried for a long time and was quite desperate because I thought it was a great idea and somebody else would do it. It's bottomlessly interesting why people get married and then why things don't work."

Then Apted turned to America and won funding of just under $1m. The directoralso found nine couples, including a lesbian pair, in New York, New Jersey, Alabama and Los Angeles, and began filming. The first part will be ready for transmission in America next spring and he hopes to return to them within 18 months.

He said the advantage of working in the United States was that he had never met an American who did not want to be on television, while there seemed to be more of a struggle with the British public.

While directing the last James Bond film, The World is Not Enough, Apted continued to work on his latest British instalment of 7 Up, which saw the documentary's subjects reaching the age of 42. It was broadcast on BBC1 in 1998 and he will return to them in 2005.

Apted is best known as a movie director with a credit list that includes Gorillas in the Mist, Gorky Park, Nell and Dracula. His latest thriller, Enigma, is based on the book by Robert Harris about Second World War code-breaking.

But Enigma has taken five years to reach the screen. Despite a screenplay by Sir Tom Stoppard and stars including Kate Winslet, Saffron Burrows and Dougray Scott, there was a nervousness from American studios about the complex plot and it was eventually funded by German and Dutch backers.