Emerging during the period of the British Renaissance, a movement that renewed British cinema in the 1980s refocusing attention on the most authentic and controversial aspects of social life, already represented during the season of Free Cinema in mid 1950s, Stephen Frears is an author who has managed to explore, winning great critical and audience acclaim, the several genres and styles of British cinema, both with his European and his American productions. Capable of o ering a lively and authentic portrayal of the psychological and social dimension of characters from any background, Frears has represented, with a fresh style and through a diverse lmography, the changes occurred from the 1970s to the present day, expressing them through the stories of complex and multifaceted characters.
Stephen Frears was born in Leicester, England, on 20 June 1941. After studying at the Gresham’s School and the Cambridge University’s Trinity College, he started a collaboration with London’s Royal Court Theatre, where he had the opportunity to work with directors such as Lindsay Anderson and Karel Reisz, and actors such as Albert Finney. Reisz himself hired him as assistant director in his 1966 lm Morgan – A Suitable Case for Treatment. He also worked as an assistant director for Finney and his production company, Memorial Enterprises, on Charlie Bubbles (1967, directed by Finney himself ) and If…, by Anderson (1968). After making his directorial debut in 1968 with the short lm The Burning, coproduced by Memorial, he mainly worked on TV, making commercials, series and TV lms. His rst big screen feature lm as a director was Gumshoe (1972), starring his colleague Finney. The lm, which was both a tribute and a parody of noir movies, was not as successful as hoped, and this led him to come back to his TV work. The turning point of his career was in 1984, following the positive reception of The Hit, and, a year later, the exploit of My Beautiful Laundrette: shot in 16mm, the lm received great critical acclaim and was nominated to an Oscar for Best Screenplay, written by Hanif Kureishi. It was followed by Prick Up Your Ears (1987), which marked a new collaboration between the lmmaker and the screenwriter Alan Bennet, with whom Frears had worked on TV. In the meantime, his popularity led him to Hollywood, where, in 1989, he realized the successful Dangerous Liaisons, regarded as his best “American” lm. It was followed by The Grifters, which earned him an Oscar nomination as Best Director. In 1995 the British Film Institute entrusted him with the making of the documentary A Personal History of British Cinema by Stephen Frears, which made part of a series celebrating 100 years of cinema. The tepid reception of Hero, ambitious social satire on the power of media starring Dustin Ho man, led him to come back to his homeland, where he directed The Snapper, presented at the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs of the Cannes Film Festival and earning him the Goya Award for Best European Film. In 1996 he was back in Hollywood to direct the horror lm Mary Reilly, and then in Ireland for The Van. In 1998, he won the Silver Bear at the Berlinale for the atypical western Hi-Lo Country. His next American success was High Fidelity (2000), based on the novel by Nick Hornby, a romantic comedy boasting an amazing musical score, still today one of his most well-known and beloved works. In 2002 he directed Dirty Pretty Things, written by Steven Knight, that combined the issues of illegal immigration and human organ tra cking. In 2006 he was again very successful with The Queen, an account of the seven days in which Queen Elisabeth had to put up with the cumbersome legacy of Princess Diana, whose tragic death had shocked the nation. The lm received six Oscar nominations, including Best Direction. In 2013 the dramatic Philomena, written and acted by Steve Coogan, was another critical success. In the same year he directed for HBO Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight, an appreciated account of the struggle of the notorious boxer, who lost his title because of his refusal to ght in Vietnam. Frears’s latest big screen lms con rm his preference for true but somehow paradoxical stories, which allow him to combine light and dramatic tones: The Program (2015), inspired by the incredible story of cyclist Lance Armstrong, and Florence, (2016), about a beloved yet tone-deaf opera singer played by Meryl Streep.