Roger Michell, director of "Notting Hill", dead at 65

Roger Michell, the British theater and film director best known for “ Notting hill “, the hugely popular 1999 romantic comedy that has s...


Roger Michell, the British theater and film director best known for “Notting hill“, the hugely popular 1999 romantic comedy that has somewhat overshadowed the rest of its vast and diverse body of work, died Wednesday. He was 65 years old.

His family announced his death in a statement released by his publicist. The statement did not specify where he died or what the cause was.

Mr. Michell’s first film, a 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel “Persuasion”, caught the attention of screenwriter Richard Curtis, who had enjoyed great success with “Four weddings and a funeralThe year before. Mr. Curtis was looking for someone to direct his next screenplay, about a humble London bookseller who fell in love with a movie star.

Although he found the idea of ​​trying to match a blockbuster like “Four Weddings and a Funeral” to be intimidating, Mr. Michell said yes immediately. He knew he wanted to play Julia Roberts as the movie star, but he sought out a male role before choosing Hugh Grant, who had also starred in “Four Weddings”.

“We played around with the idea of ​​casting someone else because of the anxiety that the movie would be seen as a retread, a sequel,” Michell told The Guardian in 1999. “Then we had thought, “How ridiculous, we have the greatest actor in the world for that kind of material, wanting to make this movie. ‘”

Mr. Michell’s concerns turned out to be unwarranted: “Notting Hill” grossed $ 262 million worldwide, or 6 million more than “Four Weddings”. It was the highest grossing British film at the time (it has since been overtaken by the “Harry Potter” films, among others), although Mr. Michell was ambivalent about its success.

“In fact, I sometimes wonder if doing ‘Notting Hill’ was a bad thing,” he told the Birmingham Post in 2002, “because it was so successful, everyone is so surprised when I do something different. “

It continues to achieve critical and commercial success. His next film was “To change of way“, a big budget thriller starring Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson that did well at the box office, although most of his subsequent films were smaller productions, among which”The mother”(2003), on the affair of a middle-aged woman with a younger man, and“Enduring love”(2004), an adaptation of a novel by Ian McEwan. Both films starred Daniel Craig, one of the many actors who frequently worked with Mr. Michell.

Mr. Michell was supposed to direct Mr. Craig as James Bond in “Quantum of Solace” (2008), but he stepped down after realizing the film had no script and was in a rush to respect the producers’ release date.

He remained a popular director in London theater while continuing to work in cinema. It was his personal policy to only stage new plays, with the exception of the work of Harold Pinter, his hero.

“I have strong opinions about the kind of work I want to do,” he told the Financial Times in 2004. “That’s all that guides me. I have no other type of strategy. I’m ambitious, what else is there?

Mr. Michell was born on June 5, 1956 in Pretoria, South Africa, where his British father served as a diplomat. As a child, he traveled often; he lived in Damascus and Beirut, and he was in Prague to witness the passage of tanks during the Soviet invasion of 1968.

Mr. Michell’s first marriage to actress Kate Buffery ended in divorce. He was separated from his second wife, actress Anna Maxwell Martin. He is also survived by his children, Harry, Rosie, Maggie and Nancy.

Mr. Michell studied English at the University of Cambridge. After graduating in 1977 he started working for a theater company in Brighton. A year later, he got his first big chance: a post of assistant director at the Royal Court Theater in London.

There he worked alongside old hands of the theater such as playwrights John osborne and Samuel beckett – which he recalled, in a 2017 interview with The Sunday Star-Times, a New Zealand newspaper, as “the opposite of that kind of terrifying eagle presence you might suspect from photographs.”

He has also worked with the next generation of directors and writers, including Danny Boyle, who will win an Oscar for directing “Slumdog Millionaire”(2008), and Hanif Kureishi, aspiring novelist and playwright.

Mr. Michell and Mr. Kureishi later became collaborators. Mr. Michell directed a 1993 adaptation of Mr. Kureishi’s novel “The suburban buddha“(1990) as a BBC series, and Mr. Kureishi wrote the screenplay for two of Mr. Michell’s films,” The Mother “and”Venus”(2006), with Peter O’Toole.

Mr. Michell’s most recent film is “The Duke,” a comedy about the 1961 theft from a painting by The Duke of Marlborough at the National Gallery in London, starring Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent. It premiered at film festivals in 2020 and is scheduled for general release next year.

Although his success with “Notting Hill” propelled him to the top ranks of English-speaking directors, Mr. Michell has kept a low profile, preferring to let his actors and writers shine – a quality that may explain why so many actors loved it. work with him. .

“As a species, the stars are pretty scary – they’re iconic and you aren’t,” he said in the Guardian interview. “But like all other artists, they thrive in a good environment. Part of my job is to give the impression of tremendous calm; that is not necessarily how I feel.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Roger Michell, director of "Notting Hill", dead at 65
Roger Michell, director of "Notting Hill", dead at 65
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