imagine… Stephen Frears
imagine… profiles acclaimed British director Stephen Frears. Despite decades of success across both cinema and television Frears likes to fly under the radar subscribing to Billy Wilder’s maxim, ‘The best director is the one you don’t see’. He has helmed an array of critically acclaimed films My Beautiful Laundrette, Dangerous Liaisons and The Queen to name just a few. Some say he’s notoriously grumpy, others that he’s mischievous and misunderstood. Now for the first time Frears opens up about his life and career. What drives this 81 year old British director, who has over 70 productions to his name across cinema and television?
imagine… follows Frears as he embarks on his latest project in Vienna – a new drama series for HBO starring Hugh Grant and Kate Winslet. Alan Yentob spends time with him in the city where The Third Man was filmed, following in the footsteps of Orson Welles’ character Harry Lime on the famous Ferris wheel and down the sewers.
Frears’ cast list is a who’s who of acting royalty. imagine… hears from Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Glenn Close, Hugh Grant, John Malkovich, Jack Black, Steve Coogan with contributions from Hanif Kureishi, Christopher Hampton and film critic Ellen E Jones.
Stephen Frears began his career in the theatre, cutting his teeth at The Royal Court in London in the early 1960s where he learnt from legendary directors such as Karel Reisz and Lindsay Anderson, before making his own debut film – Gumshoe in 1971. But it was at BBC Television’s revolutionary drama strand about real life – Play for Today – that he honed his craft and found his voice.
His interest in contemporary Britain is evident in his breakthrough film – 1985’s My Beautiful Laundrette – which scored writer Hanif Kureishi an Oscar nomination. Taking pleasure in surprising people, Frears followed it with a hugely successful period costume drama Dangerous Liaisons with career defining performances from Glenn Close and John Malkovich.
Frears certainly has a horror of repeating himself, you can’t pin him down to one genre. He excels in bringing real life stories to the small screen (A Very English Scandal, The Deal, Quiz) as well as continued big screen successes (High Fidelity, The Grifters, Philomena, Dirty Pretty Things).
Frears has worked both at home and in Hollywood. The Grifters earned him a Best Director Oscar nomination but he’s also admits to some misses – does anyone remember Mary Reilly starring Julia Roberts?
His latest cinema project is about another film director – Hollywood legend Billy Wilder as he struggled to complete his penultimate film – Fedora.
imagine… Stephen Frears: Director for Hire is a BBC Studios production for BBC One and BBC iPlayer. Alan Yentob is the Series Editor, Executive Producer is Tanya Hudson and the Producer/ Director is Linda Sands. It was commissioned for BBC Arts by Mark Bell.
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