Apted: '7 Up should have had more girls'

Jackie, Lynn and Sue with pictures of their younger selves in 2002
7 Up subjects Jackie, Lynn and Sue with pictures of their younger selves in 2002

Director Michael Apted says it was a "horrible error" to have only four females in a cast of 14 when making the original selection for the 7 Up documentary in 1964.

He made the comment at a screening of 56 Up, the eighth episode in the long-running social documentary series.

Apted said that the role of women in Britain was the biggest societal change in the lifespan of the show.

But he and his colleagues had totally "missed it", he remarked.

56 Up is as engaging as the previous seven series.

It brings up to date the stories of a group of ordinary people who are individually unique but collectively represent Everyman.

Michael Apted
Michael Apted (left) started out as a researcher on 7 Up, but has directed and narrated all subsequent instalments

Taken as a whole, the eight documentaries rank among the finest ever made. And, according to Michael Apted, they are far from finished.

He added that it was the first film he worked on (as a researcher) and it would likely be the last.

To varying degrees, all the characters have enjoyed good times and endured bad times; have won and lost; struggled and succeeded.

As a survey of the British class system, it confirms both that there was one in 1964, and that it is still alive and well in 2012.

But what it really shows us is, that when all is said and done, what really matters to people is friends and family.

'Trust'

Asked if he thought the Jesuit maxim "give me a child until he is seven years and I will show you the man" was borne out by the Up series, Apted said he thought it was.

He added that personality traits evident in the cast when aged seven were still clearly recognisable at 56. Bruce, a maths teacher who said in the very first episode in 1964 that his "heart's desire was to see my daddy", corroborated the director's point of view.

Thirteen of the original 14 characters have taken part in the latest iteration of the series with only one declining to do so. Peter has returned to the fold having opted out after 28 Up due to what he felt was unfair and unnecessarily negative press comment.

He said he did so in part to promote his band: A successful strategy, as it turned out, with several shots of the musicians rehearsing and performing included in the final edit.

Apted felt there were other reasons at play for the on-going collaboration of the cast. He cited the trust shared between his team and the subjects portrayed, and to the participants' loyalty to the project.

He added that he thought it highly unlikely that such a series would be commissioned today.

56 Up will be shown on ITV on Monday 14 May at 21:00 BST

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