Entertainment & Arts

Stepford Wives film director Bryan Forbes dies aged 86

Bryan Forbes with his family (2004)
Image caption Bryan Forbes was married to actress Nanette Newman and had two daughters

Film director Bryan Forbes has died "following a long illness" at the age of 86, a family spokesman has said.

Forbes' work included the original 1970s thriller Stepford Wives and Whistle Down The Wind.

The "giant of cinema" was married to British actress Nanette Newman and had two daughters, TV presenter Emma Forbes and journalist Sarah Standing.

Forbes died surrounded by his family at his home in Virginia Water, Surrey, family friend Matthew D'Ancona said.

Forbes was made a CBE in 2004 for services to the arts and to the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain.

He was awarded the Dilys Powell Award for outstanding contribution to cinema at the London Film Critics' Circle Awards in 2006.

Mr D'Ancona said: "Bryan Forbes was a titan of cinema, known and loved by people around the world in the film and theatre industries, and known in other fields including politics.

"He is simply irreplaceable and it is wholly apt that he died surrounded by his family."

The actor and director Kenneth Branagh paid tribute to Forbes describing him as a "superb British film-maker of astonishing range".

"In life and art he was courageous, passionate and humane," he said.

"In his early days as a writer and director he was a pioneering and revolutionary artist. We have lost a great man of UK cinema."

Behind camera

Forbes, who was born John Theobald Clarke in east London on 22 July 1926, made his screen acting debut in 1948.

Image caption Richard Attenborough (l) and Bryan Forbes founded Beaver Films (pictured with wives Sheila Sim and Nanette Newman)

He landed supporting parts in several notable British films including An Inspector Calls (1954) and The Colditz Story (1955) - but it was not long before screenwriting and directing lured him behind the camera.

Together with Richard Attenborough, he set up Beaver Films in 1959. Its first release, The Angry Silence (1960), was written by Forbes and featured Attenborough in the lead role.

His directing career began in 1961 with Whistle Down the Wind, featuring child star Hayley Mills.

Forbes directed many more films in the 1960s and early 1970s, including Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964), The Wrong Box (1966) and The Raging Moon (1971), which starred Nanette Newman, whom he had married in 1955.

In 1969 he took over as head of production and managing director of EMI-MGM Elstree, and under his tenure the studio achieved notable successes with The Railway Children and Tales of Beatrix Potter.

But it was a torrid time for the company, beset by financial difficulties and staffing issues, and Forbes resigned in 1971.

He then directed The Stepford Wives, based on the novel by Ira Levin, in 1975 and International Velvet, starring Tatum O'Neal, in 1978.

Film critic Mark Kermode paid tribute to Forbes on Twitter, writing: "Once had the fan-boyish pleasure of telling Bryan Forbes how much I loved Stepford Wives. He was charming and self-effacing. A great loss."

Image caption Forbes married Nanette Newman in 1955

Forbes, who counted the late Queen Mother among his friends, continued directing, writing and acting throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.

He also found success as an author with a number of novels, the latest of which - The Soldier's Story - was published last year.

Last June he told the Daily Mail how he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1975 but doctors later admitted the diagnosis was wrong.

In the same interview he said he would want to be remembered as "somebody not taken in by fame".

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