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Director Roger Michell (1956-2021)


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The well-regarded South African-born British stage and screen director Roger Michell, whose film credits included "Notting Hill" and "Venus," died Wednesday at the age of 65.

The cause of death was not given. But Michell’s publicist issued the following statement: “It is with great sadness that the family of Roger Michell, director, writer and father of Harry, Rosie, Maggie and Sparrow, announce his death at the age of 65 on 22 September.”

Michell's children Rosanna and Harry were from his marriage to the actor-turned-lawyer Kate Buffery. Their union ended in 2002. That  year, he married the actress Anna Maxwell Martin, the mother of his daughters Maggie and Nancy. The couple separated last year.

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One of Michell's earliest efforts was the 1995 film "Persuasion," which was based on the 1817 novel by Jane Austen. The drama starred Northern Ireland's Ciarán Hinds as a 19th-century naval captain who had a difficult history with the British maiden Anne Eliot (Amanda Root, in her major screen debut).

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Written by Richard Curtis ("Four Weddings and a Funeral," "Love Actually"), "Notting Hill" was the 1999 critical and commercial hit that teamed Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. She played a big-name actress who fell in love with a British bookstore owner (Grant) during a visit to his West London shop. The romantic comedy featured Roberts' character's memorable line: "I'm also just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her."

Notting Hill' (1999) » It Was Like Magic

The 2002 thriller "Changing Lanes" starred a future Academy Award recipient (Samuel L. Jackson) and two-time Oscar winner Ben Affleck as New Yorkers with anger management problems. Co-written by  Michael Tolkin ("The Player") and Chap Taylor, the picture was praised by Chicago Sun Times film critic Roger Ebert as one of the year's best productions,.

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The 2003 drama "The Mother" starred a pre-007 Daniel Craig as a London carpenter who becomes involved in a risky affair with his girlfiend's widowed mother (played by Anne Reid). The actress received a BAFTA nomination for her lead performance.

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"Enduring Love" was the haunting 2004 story of a freak disaster in an English countryside and how it impacted the lives of witnesses, including the lead character played by Craig. The thriller also starred Rhys Ifans (the Welsh actor who was such a delight in "Notting Hill") and Samantha Morton. Michell was scheduled to direct Craig a third time -- for the 2008 James Bond thriller "Quantum of Solace" -- but it didn't work out.

 

The 2006 comedy/drama "Venus" starred Jodie Whittaker -- now The Thirteenth Doctor on the BBC television series "Doctor Who" -- as a teen girl who captured the fancy of an aging actor (Peter O'Toole). The film provided O'Toole with his eighth and final Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Whittaker received a British Independent Film Award nod for Most Promising Newcomer and a Satellite Award nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical.

"Hyde Park on the Hudson" (2012) starred Bill Murray as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who welcomed Britain's King George VI ( Samuel West) and his wife Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) to his New York estate in 1939. The historical tale also starred Laura Linney, Elizabeth Marvel, Elizabeth Wilson and Olivia Williams (as Eleanor Roosevelt).

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In a rare instance in which an actress had the same name as the character in a movie's title, Rachel Weisz starred in a 2017 remake of "My Cousin Rachel." She played Rachel Ashley in the mystery/drama based on the 1951 novel by Dame Daphne du Maurier. Dame Olivia de Havilland had the role in the 1952 screen version, which also featured an early Oscar-nominated film performance by Richard Burton.

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Michell's final film, "The Duke," is scheduled for a 2022 release. But favorable reviews could make it a 2021 Oscar contender. The comedy/drama, which was shown at the 2020 Venice Film Festival, is a true story starring Academy Award winners Dame Helen Mirren and  Jim Broadbent, Set in 1961, the film revolves around a taxi driver (Broadbent) who steals Goya's portrait of The Duke of Wellington from a London museum, and holds it for ransom. 
 
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Numbed by the news of Roger Michell’s untimely death. We worked together on three films (Persuasion, Notting Hill, Hyde Park on Hudson) and a play (Betrayal).
 
He was a beautiful man and a consummate director: generous, authoritative, tasteful and so, so kind. I loved him, a lot.
 
 
 

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Roger Michell's filmic output was, um, variable, but he was one of the few filmmakers to address the emotional and physical lives of older characters in "The Mother" (2003, w/ Anne Reid) and "Venus" (2006, w/ Peter O'Toole), two small, very nervy movies. R.I.P.
 
 
 
ugh, i had dinner with Roger Michell at Telluride less than 3 weeks ago. he was kind and gregarious and so honest about the ups & downs of his directing career (proud of Enduring Love, excited about a doc he was making). NOTTING HILL is a masterpiece. RIP.
 
 

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So sad to hear that Roger Michell has passed away. He gave me my first big break at the NT in The Homecoming. He was such a kind, supportive and insightful director. Condolences to his family. RIP Roger.
 
 

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So incredibly sad to hear about the passing of Roger Michell, a wonderful director with huge integrity and compassion, in this world his kindness mattered so much to me. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. Thank you Roger for being so wonderful to us all. Enduring love…
 
 
 
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So sorry to hear this. He was a great theater director as well. I saw his production of The Dead Monkey at the Royal Shakespeare Company many years ago (1986) and still have very fond memories of that crazy Nick Darke play. R.I.P. Mr. Michell.

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Anthony O'Donnell, Frances Barber in The Dead Monkey

 

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