Paul Marcus: TV producer and director who was a driving force behind Prime Suspect

It seems apt that Paul Marcus should have gained some of his first experiences as a television producer on Prime Suspect. The Lynda La Plante-created crime drama starred Helen Mirren as Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison, a woman facing sexism from her male colleagues after being put in charge of murder cases. Marcus's own father, the playwright Frank Marcus, was a German-born Jew who fled to Britain in 1939 and was admired for writing strong female roles, notably that of Beryl Reid's lesbian and washed-up soap-opera character in The Killing of Sister George. He did not seek to promote feminism, but most of his plays featured dominant women.

When Paul Marcus arrived at Granada Television, the first Prime Suspect mini-series had already made waves, but he steered it through two more (1992, 1993) and a three-part series of self-contained stories (1995) that brought him his first experience as a director on screen. He went on to direct other British television programmes and feature films starring Kiefer Sutherland, Max von Sydow and Geraldine Chaplin.

Marcus was born in London in 1954 and, with a playwright father and actor mother – Jacqueline Sylvester – it did not take long for him to catch the theatrical bug. He began directing plays while attending Latymer Upper School, before graduating in English from Lincoln College, Oxford (1973-76), where he directed Oxford University Dramatic Society productions.

Marcus was soon doing the same at London theatres – the Mermaid, Roundhouse and Young Vic – and the Oxford Playhouse, with the works of Shakespeare, Brecht, Beckett and Pinter. Then came three seasons (1984-86) as an assistant director at the Royal Shakespeare Company. During his time there, he co-directed, with Clifford Williams, Il Candelaio at The Pit, London (1986).

In 1986, Marcus joined the BBC as a script editor, working with the producer Louis Marks on dramas such as Quartermaine's Terms (1987), and Precious Bane (1989), based on Mary Webb's novel. He also attended the BBC directors' course and took time out to return to the theatre, most notably directing the Harold Pinter play Family Voices at both the Barbican, London, and Lyric Studio, Hammersmith (1987).

Marcus was given his first chance to produce for television when he worked on a BBC version of David Hare's stage play Knuckle (1989), co-produced with his former schoolfriend Colin Ludlow. Then came Hancock (1991), starring Alfred Molina as the tortured comedy actor Tony Hancock, before his move to Granada.

Prime Suspect 2 (1992) and Prime Suspect 3 (1993) both won Marcus an Emmy Award for outstanding mini-series. His other ITV series included the second run of Maigret (1993), starring Michael Gambon, Wokenwell (1997), about three police officers and their wives in a north of England town, and the medical drama Plastic Man (1999), with John Thaw as an NHS plastic surgeon.

Marcus's switch to directing was given a boost by making the American film Break Up (1998), a thriller about a woman accused of murdering her abusive husband, with Bridget Fonda and Kiefer Sutherland. When Sutherland subsequently starred in the crime drama After Alice (2000), he recommended Marcus to take over after the original director pulled out. Heidi (2005), featuring Max von Sydow, Geraldine Chaplin and Diana Rigg, was Marcus's film version of the Swiss author Johanna Spyri's novel.

His other television work as a director included the crime drama In Deep (2001-03); Murder Rooms: the Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes (2000-01), with Ian Richardson playing the doctor on whom Arthur Conan Doyle based his Victorian detective; The Bill (2002); Dalziel and Pascoe (2000-06); the children's series The Roman Mysteries (2007) and a 2009 episode of Lark Rise to Candleford.

Anthony Hayward

Paul Coryn Valentine Marcus, producer and director: born London 30 May 1954; married 1987 Viviana Maranzano (two daughters); died London 13 February 2011.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific