Paul Almond, the Canadian director and writer whose 1964 documentary Seven Up became the basis for the celebrated Up series, has died of complications from a heart attack. He was 83.
Born in Montreal, Almond studied philosophy and economics at McGill University and Oxford before embarking on a successful career as a TV director in Canada and the United Kingdom. By the time Almond pitched Seven Up to an executive over drinks, he’d already built up a formidable resume directing scripted TV for the CBC, BBC, and Granada. He had also helmed a couple of episodes of the seminal Alfred Hitchcock Presents as well as a TV adaptation of Macbeth, with a then-unknown Sean Connery in the title role.
Seven Up—which showed a cross-section of British society by profiling a group of seven-year-olds—was broadcast to wide acclaim on Granada Television in 1964. Though it was supposed to be a one-off, director Michael Apted—who had worked as a researcher on the original project—ended up turning it into one of the best-known series in non-fiction film, returning to the same subjects every seven years. The most recent entry, 56 Up, was released in 2013.
Though he continued working in TV throughout the ’60s, Almond’s ambitions lay in film. He wrote and directed a series of arthouse dramas—including Isabel, The Act Of The Heart, and Journey—starring his then-wife, Geneviève Bujold, and often dealing with questions of religious faith inspired by Almond’s upbringing as the son of an Episcopalian priest. The Act Of The Heart—about the relationship between a deeply religious woman (Bujold) and a monk (Donald Sutherland)—won Almond Best Director at the 1970 Canadian Film Awards, the predecessor to the Genies.
Almond’s other films include Captive Hearts, which starred and was co-written by Pat Morita, and The Dance Goes On. He retired from directing in the early ’90s to concentrate on writing fiction. The Inheritor—a roman à clef about Almond’s career in TV and film, and the conclusion of an eight-novel cycle that traced a Canadian family across several generations—was published earlier this month.