Tony, a cab driver, is among the people profiled in “63 Up,” part of a long-running series addressing class structure in England, and much more. (Courtesy BritBox)

‘63 Up’ director Michael Apted still going strong

British doc series checks in with subjects, now seniors

English director Michael Apted has no plans to stop making movies in the groundbreaking “Up” series.

“I’ll do another one in another six and a half years; I’m 78 and blessed with good health,” says the filmmaker, on the phone to promote “63 Up,” which opens Friday at the Clay theater in San Francisco.

Mentioning that he’ll be involved in the project as long as he “can breathe and speak,” Apted calls the collective nine documentaries “unique in the history of film and of broadcasting anywhere in the world.”

The series, which began in 1964, has followed a group of people over their lives from age 7 to 63, checking in with them at seven-year intervals.

In “Seven Up,” the filmmakers, dismayed at Britain’s rigid class structure, set out to investigate the Jesuit saying “Give me the child until he is seven, and I will give you the man” for a public television show. They asked 14 boys and girls from varied backgrounds about their lives and what they wanted for their futures.

Apted began directing the documentaries when the subjects were 14, and he’s been with them at every juncture ever since.

“On a very basic level, we see ourselves as friends and we’re all in this together,” he says. And with key crew members the same over years, he adds, “It’s a genuine family.”

The participants have gone through ups and downs, and have come and gone. And while most are “more than willing to do it” (the films are “icons” of British TV, Apted says), he adds, “They moan about it when I ring them up: a third are happy, a third are nervous, a third are worried we have to go through it again.”

This time around, a woman named Suzy dropped out. After the film came out, Apted says, she told him she bitterly regretted it.

In the movie, another woman, Jackie takes him to task for being sexist in the way he interviews the women vs. men. Apted admits he may have.

But wanting to maintain interest, he says, “I try not to do predictable questions.” And he’s pleased to take suggestions about various segments’ settings. In “63 Up,” he follows John to Bulgaria, and he shows Tony playing golf with his brothers, juxtaposed with them playing golf together 30 years earlier.

In determining what footage to use, Apted says, “The golden stuff is the new stuff that is strong,” from career changes to having children to getting divorced.

Not too surprisingly, in “63 Up,” mortality comes into greater play: “There are the sad ones, like Neil and Nick and Lynn — one doesn’t wish that one anyone,” Apted says.

IF YOU GO

63 Up

Starring: Nicholas, Tony, Bruce, Susan, Peter, Andrew, John, Jacqueline, Neil, Symon, Paul

Directed by: Michael Apted

Not rated

Running time: 2 hours, 18 minutes

Movies and TV

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