Led by Emmy nominated, DGA and BAFTA® award-winning director Michael Apted (Chronicles of Narnia, Amazing Grace) throughout the decades, this groundbreaking documentary anthology has now reached 63 Up, gaining further illuminating insight into its premise of asking whether or not our adult lives are pre-determined by our earliest influences and the social class in which we are raised. An issue as relevant to our society now as when the series first appeared. The documentary film reveals more life-changing decisions, more shocking announcements and joy and tears in equal measure.
The original Seven Up was broadcast as a one-off World in Action Special inspired by the founding editor Tim Hewat’s passionate interest in the Jesuit saying, “Give me the child until he is seven, and I will give you the man,” and his anger at what he saw as the rigidity of social class in England. Seven Up featured the children talking about their hopes and dreams for the future. As members of the generation who would be running the country by the year 2000, what did they think they would become?
The result was ground-breaking and the follow-up films every seven years have won an array of awards.
Director Michael Apted, who moved to Hollywood in the late 70s to direct films including award winning film Coal Miner’s Daughter, The World Is Not Enough, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and Gorillas in the Mist, has returned every seven years to chart the children’s progress through life.
Over six decades, the films have documented the group as they became adults and entered middle-age, dealing with everything life has thrown at them in between. Now, as the group reaches retirement age, the film is back to discover what they are doing.
London cabbie Tony told 7 UP that he wanted to be a jockey. The films followed him as he chased his dream but said at 14 that if he didn’t make it he would become a taxi driver. By 21 he qualified to be a taxi driver and at 28 he owned his own cab.
The films followed Tony as he married Debie and started a family. At 49 they were filmed at their holiday home in Spain and at 56 Tony said he wanted to open a bar there.
When the series last saw Tony, he and his wife were looking after one of their grandchildren for their daughter. The couple talked about their marriage and their hopes for the future.
Where is Tony now? Do he and Debie still have a house in Spain? Did he gets his sports bar off the ground?
When Andrew was just seven, he told the series that he read the Financial Times. The public schoolboy went on to become a solicitor with a wife, Jane, and two sons.
When the series last saw Andrew, a successful lawyer, he spoke about his marriage to Jane and his second home and family life.
In 63 Up, we catch up on his story.
Sue first appeared in the series with her two East End school friends, Jackie and Lynn. Since then Sue has shared details about her marriage, her divorce and raising her two children.
In 42 Up, Sue was living as a single mom and spoke about her life and the fulfilment she got from her children. She also talked about her job working in administration at the University of London. At the end of the film she said that she was in the early stages of a new relationship with Glenn. By 56 Up, Sue and Glenn had been engaged for 14 years and Sue laughed about their long engagement and how they were in no hurry to marry.
At 56 Up, Sue spoke about her work at the university, her relationship with Glenn and how proud she was of her son and daughter. She also talked about her new hobby, amateur dramatics.
In 63 Up, Sue looks back on the last seven years and what she is planning for the future.
When farmer’s son Nick was seven he told the series that he wanted to learn about the moon and refused to answer any questions about girls. In 14 Up the shy teenager made the same comment. But by 21 Up Nick had met Jackie and in 35 Up the couple had married and were living in the U.S., where Nick was a professor at a University. At 42 Up the couple had a son but by 49 Up they were divorced and Nick had a new wife, Cryss.
In 56 Up, Nick took Cryss back to the Yorkshire Dales where he grew up, and he talked about taking part in the films and living in America. He became emotional when visiting his family’s graves and thinking back about the death of his grandmother.
Where is Nick at 63? Is he still living in America?
The films have followed him as he graduated from Oxford before going on to teach in Bangladesh. At 35 Up, he was not married but confessed that he hoped he soon would be. At 42 Up Bruce revealed that he had met a fellow teacher, Penny, while working in London’s East End, and the pair were now married. They expressed their desire to start a family and in 49 Up they introduced their two sons.
When the series last saw Bruce, he talked about his sons as the trio planned a camping trip together. Bruce was still teaching maths and enjoying playing cricket. But where is Bruce now? Is he still working?
Jackie was one of the three East End girls interviewed together aged seven. The films have followed her as she moved to Glasgow and had three sons. By 42 Jackie was living alone with the boys after splitting with her partner, Ian, father to her two youngest boys. At 49 she told the programme that she and Ian still lived near to each other and he was still a big part of her sons’ lives.
At 56 Up, Jackie spoke openly about her ill health and her struggle to find work and the effect on her benefit reviews. She revealed that Ian, her former partner, had been killed in a road traffic accident.
Despite her difficulties, Jackie revealed that she was looking forward to the future.
Liverpudlian Peter left the series after 28 Up. At the time he was married and teaching at a school in Leicester. He was quite outspoken about his views about the education system and after coming under-fire in the press he decided not to take part in the series anymore.
Peter, who at seven told the programme he wanted to be an astronaut, remained in contact with Michael Apted, who asked him to come back to the show every seven years. So at 56 Up, after setting up a successful country music band, Peter decided to re-join the Up series to continue his story.
Aged seven, Lynn was filmed alongside Jackie talking about how she wanted to work in Woolworths but she ended up as a children’s librarian. The series previously saw her battling a life-threatening brain condition and, in 56 Up, she had lost the job she’d dutifully held for 30 years. Lynn spoke about how her priorities had changed since 49 Up, after she became a grandmother to a grandson who was born prematurely.
Seven-year-old Paul lived in a children’s home and wanted to be a policeman but feared it would be too hard. By 28, Paul and his wife Sue had two children and were living in Australia.
At 49 Up Paul and his wife, Sue, talked about their two grandchildren and their daughter, Katy, who was the first member of their family to go to university.
And at 56 Up, Paul looked back over the most recent seven years of his life and talked about his job at a retirement village.
In 63 Up, the series finds out how life is treating Paul now. How important does he think the move to Australia at the age of seven was for his development?
Symon was also brought up in the same children’s home as Paul. When he was a child he dreamed of being an actor. By 28, he was married with five children but by 35 had divorced. By 42, Symon had married Vienetta and they had a son together. By 49 they decided to train as foster parents.
At 56, Symon talked about his six children and how he and Vienetta were fostering other children as well. He talked about his job as a forklift truck driver and how he didn’t feel as though he had fulfilled his potential.
John was privately educated and predicted his own career in law at a young age. By 35, John was a barrister and had married the daughter of a former Ambassador to Bulgaria. By coincidence, John’s mother was from Bulgaria and having felt his own background was privileged, he began working with the Friends of Bulgaria charity to help those less fortunate.
At 56, John was still raising money for charity and working hard as a barrister, although he expressed disappointment about the fact that two of his friends are now government ministers as he always wanted to get into politics.
So where is John now? Has he made a move into politics? 63 Up finds out.
Neil is one of the series’ most memorable people with perhaps the most dramatic course of life events. In 1964, he was an enchanting Liverpool boy who wanted to be an astronaut. Tragically, in 28 Up Neil was found homeless and struggling with mental health issues. Yet he surprised viewers when he reappeared as a Liberal Democrat councillor in Hackney in 42 Up.
At 56, Neil revealed that as well as being a councillor, he was also preaching as a lay minister in the village where he lived. But where is he now?