Brian Mills

'Coronation Street' director


Brian Arthur Mills, television director: born Manchester 25 October 1933; married first Hilda Miller (one adopted son; marriage dissolved), second 1976 Brigit Forsyth (one son, one daughter); died Manchester 3 June 2006.

As someone who spent all of his career making programmes for Granada Television, Brian Mills had the distinction of being the only director to work on Coronation Street in all of its five decades, from 1968, when Elsie Tanner's son Dennis married Jenny Sutton and the serial's first outdoor set was built, to 2000, the year that saw Mike Baldwin marry for a fourth time and Sarah Platt give birth at the age of 13.

In the middle of his run on Britain's top soap, he directed some of the most memorable 1983 Ken-Deirdre-Mike love-triangle episodes, which made newspaper front pages in a way that was then rare for such serials. As the story reached its explosive climax, with Ken Barlow finally finding out about his wife Deirdre's affair with Mike Baldwin and all hell breaking loose, Mills instituted a style of shooting scenes in the Barlow household from above to heighten the drama.

He also used an element of surprise that shocked at least one of those taking part and combined with the enthusiasm of William Roache, who plays Ken, to produce a memorable piece of television.

After a rehearsal for the scene in which Mike (Johnny Briggs) arrived at the Barlows' door, following the confession by Deirdre (Anne Kirkbride), Mills said he was concerned that it was lacking in passion, but Roache assured him that it would come to life when they started recording. As a result, Mills put his faith in the actors, with Roache adamant that Briggs would not enter the Barlows' house, as in the script, because he did not consider that Ken would allow him to. As Kirkbride opened the door, Roache threw himself full-bloodedly into Ken's rage, grabbed her, slammed her against the door, which closed on Briggs, and then put his hands around her throat. Kirkbride appeared to be still in shock when she related the story to me some years later. "It was quite frightening and I hadn't expected it," she said:

He [Roache] had worked it out with the director, Brian Mills, so that it was totally realistic. I was very upset at the time and just ran into the living-room and sat down with my head in my hands - and Brian had a camera there, waiting to film me!

Born in Manchester in 1933, the son of a toolmaker, Brian Mills served in the Army after giving up training as an accountant, which he decided was not the career for him. Then, he landed a job delivering newspapers for the Daily Express in Manchester, before a friend heard about work available in the sound department at Granada Television's studios in the city. Mills started by putting records on a turntable during the television company's early days and worked his way up to become head of sound. Determined to become a director, but without the qualifications, he sought wider experience by joining the lighting department and, again, began at the bottom, before eventually taking charge of it.

Finally, Mills persuaded Granada to train him as a director and, in between his stints on Coronation Street (1968-2000), he worked on many of its programmes for ITV. He directed both series of Devenish (1977-78), an office-based sitcom written by Anthony Couch and starring Dinsdale Landen as the chief games deviser for Universal Pastimes Ltd who had an over-inflated sense of self- importance and irritated his colleagues. Mills also made episodes in the second and third series (1976-77) of The Cuckoo Waltz, Geoffrey Lancashire's comedy about a happy but poor newly married couple (played by David Roper and Diane Keen) taking in a caddish, well-off lodger (Lewis Collins).

Among the many dramas he worked on were the Jack Rosenthal play Well, Thank You Thursday (1976), set in a register office, and episodes of Crown Court, as well as Strangers (1978-82), The Mallens (1979), The Spoils of War (1980), Cribb (1980), Bulman (1985, 1987) and First Among Equals (1986). He directed two stories in The Return of Sherlock Holmes series (1988), and made a two-hour special, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1988) - maintaining the tradition established by Granada for mounting handsome productions while remaining faithful to the original Conan Doyle stories, with Jeremy Brett capturing the dark side of the Baker Street sleuth.

Half of Mills's career as a director came after he had technically left Granada in 1983, when staff were offered early retirement, but he returned as a freelance.

The director met his second wife, the actress Brigit Forsyth, when she played the younger daughter in Adam Smith (1972), broadcast in ITV's Sunday-evening religious slot and starring Andrew Keir as a small Scottish border village's minister. "I'm a little psychic and got a funny feeling about him at the read-through," recalled Forsyth:

"I remember looking at his face, which was always a very sad face, and thought, "What that man needs is children. That's something I could do for him." I hadn't even spoken to him at that point!"

Mills subsequently directed Forsyth in the title role of the six-part psychological thriller Holly (1972). The couple married and had two children and, although they separated seven years ago, remained good friends.

Anthony Hayward

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teaching Assistant

£40 - £50 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a TA/LSA looking for...

SEN Teacher

SEN QTS ASD MLD PLMD SLD: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply special education...

DT Teacher - Textiles

£100 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We urgently require a DT t...

Year 1 Teacher for long term roles starting in September

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week