Web Extra: "56 Up"

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 01:48 PM

On last week’s show, we aired Brooke's interview with Michael Apted and Tony Walker, director and star of the “Up Series.” Brooke had no shortage of questions for Michael and Tony: even though the edited interview ran a whopping 17 minutes, many interesting tidbits of conversation ended up on the cutting room floor. We've salvaged some of those outtakes, and present them here for your enjoyment.

If you're in a mood to read rather than listen, scroll down to the transcript.

Tony on his dreams of being a jockey

BG: When you saw yourself in these films at various stages of your life, did you recognize yourself?

TW: Absolutely I recognized myself. My dreams are evaporatin’ there before me. ... My mum and dad are very fore — right in my focus all the time. When I became a jockey I was — my mum and dad were very proud of me. And um, even now I get quite emotional watching it, knowin’ that my mom are not here anymore. And it was the proudest day of their lives for me to don my silks and walk out the way ... at Kempton Park to have my first race. Great days. 

BG: And then, it didn’t work out?

 TW: No, but I had three years of trying to become a jockey, and it was the greatest — best days of my life. And even now I look back, y’know, I got me family now, and me grandchildren of course, but on a career basis, despite I never made the grade, it was great, great opportunity for me to be a part of the scene at that particular time. Great memories for me.  

Tony on being asked for his autograph

BG: In the US, the “Up Series” is known, it’s admired, but it’s not a cultural icon the way I believe it is in the UK. Tony, you said you’ve been asked for your autograph on the street.

 TW: I get more than that. … I get people now — they get in my taxi — I tell this story all the time, that they often say rather than me telling my wife who I had in the back of the cab today, cuz I had Johnny Depp last year and I had ... Robert Downy Jr., big Hollywood film stars, the punters of the cab riders, they tend to say “have a guess who picked me up in the taxi.” And they reverse the role, and … you know, i’m quite excited about that. Even in Australia, I went to a cricket match, and I’m at the Sydney Cricket Grand, and people comin’ up to me askin’ for my autograph, which I don’t mind the attention,  … but to feel the tentacles of fame goes from here to Australia, America, and it goes all around, and I’m very approachable, and they come up to me and y’know, I start talking, and I — I’m quite happy with it. 

Michael on whether he would volunteer his children as documentary subjects

 BG: Michael, would you elect your kids for a project like this?

 MA: Uh, It’s a tough question. I mean, depends who was doing it, I think — what the auspices were, you know, how serious it was or if it was exploitative. I couldn’t refuse it if I felt it was [a] responsible piece of work done by responsible people, but you know, with the existence of a lot of reality television, some of which is very good, some of it is very exploitative, I’d be very wary of that, because you know I know what goes on, and so I think it would be a case-by-case thing.

Michael on the underrepresentation of women in the “Up Series”

 BG: I know you’ve expressed regrets that only four of the fourteen [original subjects] were girls and yet — 

 MA: Well, yeah.

BG: — a lot of your films have had women as central protagonists, y’know, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” prominent among them.

 MA: Yeah, “Nell,” “Gorillas in the Mist,” lots of them. I mean, this was one film in 1964, and this was a snapshot of England, and the idea that a woman would be prime minister about 15 years later was unthinkable. And of course the ethnic balance of the film is absurd too, but that’s what England was like in 1964, and I couldn’t change it. But I think I have compensated in my movie work about the woman thing, because I’ve always felt that  the biggest social revolution I’ve lived through is the changing role of women in society, particularly in the United Kingdom, and to a great extent here. … [Y]ou know, I always find the women’s stories the most interesting ones, and so that’s been clear in my choice of material, but I — I never really recovered from the fact that I missed the story. 

Michael on the “bogusness” of documentary and art

 MA: So I’m not looking for drama in the cheesy sense of the word. I’m … looking for the way life changes, and the adjustments. You know, It’s like a sort of great novel, a great Victorian novel: you know, the people move half an inch a year, and that becomes dramatic. It’s the real drama of life, not bogus drama.

BG: You say there’s nothing purer about documentary than there is about entertainment films, and in fact you say there’s something bogus about everything, including art. Which seems rather cynical. [Laughs.]

MA: Oh, thank you very much. Well, perhaps I’d better explain it. Well how can I begin? There’s nothing pure about documentary because every edit I make is a judgement call. I mean, I had a bad time with one of the subjects seven years ago, saying … that I edited the performance and chose what I wanted and I shaped it — well of course I did. Everybody who’s ever made a film does that. Films don’t magically, suddenly appear. You know of course it’s ridiculous to say, as this film does, well here’s someone’s life in fifteen minutes. You can’t do that. But this is my snapshot of their lives every seven years when I meet them, and again, it’s my view of it, my vision of it, and it’s not in any remote sense a complete picture of their lives. How could it be? But nonetheless I think  there is a truthfulness in it, there is something really interesting and powerful about watching people grow up, watching people change, even if it doesn’t represent anything like the full scale of their life. There’s a lot goes on in their life that I don’t know about, that I don’t deal with and whatever. But I don’t think that sort of diminishes the project. But that’s what i mean by saying things are bogus. Art is about vision; art is about an artist. It isn’t some objective thing, here’s some great cloud of truth out there that ... you’re just simply going to capture and transfer into some form. This is someone’s view of the world, and all art is that. 


Michael Apted and Tony Walker

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone


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Comments [1]


The last bit by Apted is very interesting. 56UP seems like Apted's attempt to self-evaluate the series, almost as a final message in case he isn't able to make 63UP when he is in his late 70s. It is a great statement on what he has done by making these films.

Jan. 16 2013 11:16 AM

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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by Meredith Haggerty. You can subscribe to the TLDR podcast here. You can follow our blog here. I tweet @manymanywords and @tldr.

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