Stephen Frears

Stephen Frears

The mentor

Published in 2007

British director Stephen Frears, 66, is known for films that span genres ranging from gritty productions about people living on the fringes of society to romantic satires and a lavish 18th-century period piece. “I do what my guts tell me, I direct what I like,” says Frears. “I have a good sense of what makes a good text, a quality I picked up in the theatre.”

After studying law at Cambridge (1960-1963), he joined the Royal Court Theatre where he came under the influence of directors Lindsay Anderson and Karel Reisz, whom he calls his spiritual fathers. It was Reisz who enlisted him as assistant director in his film Morgan (1966). A year later Frears directed his own short film, The Burning, and, in 1971, made his first feature, Gumshoe, starring Albert Finney. For the next 12 years, he worked in television, directing award-winning films for the BBC. In 1985 My Beautiful Laundrette, written by Hanif Kureishi, launched him as a major film-maker, followed by Sammy and Rosie Get Laid and Prick Up Your Ears, both released in 1987. The following year, he directed his first American feature Dangerous Liaisons, for which he received a BAFTA Best Director nomination and international honours including the César for Best Foreign Film. The Grifters (1990) earned him an Academy Award Best Director nomination. Since then, The Snapper (1993), The Hi-Lo Country (1998), Liam (2000), High Fidelity (2000), Dirty Pretty Things (2002) and Mrs Henderson Presents (2005), have won awards in Europe and the United States. In 2007, Stephen Frears’ film, The Queen (2006), was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Director for Frears and Best Actress for Dame Helen Mirren, who won the Academy Award. In May 2007, he was president of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival.