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Michael Apted CMG (Class of 1960)

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

School Governor, Peter Levene, has written an obituary for Michael Apted CMG, his CLS classmate from 1952 to 1960. Michael sadly passed away last week.

"In attempting to summarise the life of Mike Apted, it would be impossible for anyone outside of the cinema and TV industry to do justice to the life achievements of one of the greatest directors born in the UK. This task is far better left to the specialist publications and there is an excellent and detailed account of his professional life in the Hollywood Reporter – downloadable online – well worth reading.

This is the man who directed so many notable productions such as Coal Miner’s Daughter, The World is not Enough, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, one of the Narnia films featuring another Old Citizen, Skandar Keynes (Class of 2010). 

Michael is best known in the television world for the remarkable series Up, which he renewed so effectively every seven years until 63 Up in 2019.

But my task is to refer to the CLS career of Michael Apted, which started in 1952 in Old Grammar to join a class of 28, most of whom stuck together throughout their school careers. To assist me, I called a number of our contemporaries and asked them “What do you remember about Mike at school?” From each I received the same answer, firstly a pause, and then the comments that he was quiet, friendly, but most of all kind. The word kind was a constant refrain, that of a boy who was keen to ensure that he was surrounded by a group of like-minded young boys who looked out for each other.

Mike was a good sportsman playing, rugby, cricket, tennis and fives for the School first teams, and even soccer when it was still played in the then junior school – this was doubtless linked to his support of West Ham United whom he followed avidly.

His future career in the arts was no doubt influenced by the remarkable Geoffrey Clark, who produced the annual school play to an exceptionally high standard. Mike took the role of Claudius in Hamlet in support of John Shrapnel (Class of 1960) in the leading role, which led to his career in the theatre. Mike had watched the film Ben Hur at an early age, and this had certainly kindled his love for and interest in the cinema.

Mike went on to Cambridge where he joined a number of his contemporaries including Mike Brearley and Lawrence Collins – both of whom went on to enjoy stellar careers of their own.

When we all left school, in 1960, the group of prefects agreed to keep in touch and to meet for an annual dinner. The first such dinner was held in the flat of Colin Robinson’s parents, and we then moved on to various restaurants and even had a dinner at Mansion House. In a similar way to Mike’s Up series, and because the dinners slipped from an annual event, it was a great opportunity to keep up with careers and the way that we were each branching out. There was one remarkable conversation between Mike and Mike Brearley at one of these dinners when each was comparing the difficulty of trying to manage personalities like Bianca Jagger and Geoff Boycott.

When Mike moved to Hollywood, we saw less of him although he still kept in touch, and we could admire his achievements from afar. I was visiting Los Angeles on a business trip and was invited by the Consul General to the party to celebrate the Queen’s birthday, where I joined Mike who had just been awarded the CMG for his work in promoting the cinematic talents of the UK. He was regarded in Hollywood as one of the UK’s greatest exports.

His remarkable career has now sadly come to an end, and we extend our sympathies to his wife Paige and to his three surviving children, James, John and Lily. They have lost a remarkable husband and father – and we have lost a good friend."

Peter Levene (Class of 1960)

Mike was a good sportsman playing, rugby, cricket, tennis and fives for the School first teams
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