Hugh Hudson

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Hugh Hudson
Born (1936-08-25) 25 August 1936 (age 84)
London, England, UK
Education Eton College
Occupation Director, producer, screenwriter
Years active 1967 – present
Known for Chariots of Fire
Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan
Spouse(s) Susan Caroline Michie (1977)
Maryam d'Abo (2003–present)

Hugh Hudson (born 25 August 1936) is an English film director.[1] He directed the 1981 multiple Academy Award-winning film Chariots of Fire.

Early life

Hudson was born at 27 Welbeck Street, London, the second son of Jacynth (Ellerton), the second wife of Michael Donaldson-Hudson from Cheswardine in rural north east Shropshire. His father was Ralph Charles Donaldson-Hudson, and his great-grandfather was Charles Donaldson-Hudson, a one-time member of Parliament for Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. His paternal ancestors came from Scotland and Cumberland. He was sent to boarding school in 1942 at the age of 6, and thereafter was educated at Eton College. He began his National Service in the Royal Armoured Corps from 28 January 1956, reaching the rank of second lieutenant and remained as a lieutenant in the Army Reserve of Officers until he was discharged on 16 January 1960.


In the 1960s, after three years of editing documentaries in Paris, Hudson headed a documentary film company with partners Robert Brownjohn and David Cammell. The company produced, among others, the documentaries A for Apple, which won a Screenwriters' Guild Award, and The Tortoise and the Hare, which was nominated for a BAFTA award. The company emerged with much success in the 1960s, winning many awards and pioneering a new graphic style for documentary and advertising films.

He then began a career in advertising, producing and directing many advertisements. His first filmmaking job was as a second-unit director on Alan Parker's Midnight Express.


Between 1973 and 1975 Hudson wrote and directed Fangio, A life at 300 km/h, a documentary film about motor racing seen through the eyes of Juan Manuel Fangio, five times the world Formula 1 Champion.

From 1979 to 1980 Hudson directed his first and most successful feature film, Chariots of Fire (1981), the story of two British track runners, one a devout Christian and the other an ambitious Jew, in the run-up to the 1924 Olympic Games. The film is said to have revitalised the fading British film industry, and it won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture; Hudson earned a nomination for Best Director. His friend and colleague Vangelis produced an Academy Award-winning score for the film.

Vincent Canby of the New York Times wrote in 1981 "It's to the credit of both Mr. Hudson and Mr. Welland that Chariots of Fire is simultaneously romantic and commonsensical, lyrical and comic. ... It's an exceptional film, about some exceptional people."[2]

Hudson had rejected numerous feature film offers before Chariots of Fire's success. His next production was Greystoke - The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984) which received four Oscar nominations, and was Ralph Richardson's last screen performance, for which he was nominated in the 1984 Oscars as Best Supporting Actor. It was a success at the box office and with critics.

In 1985 Hudson directed Revolution, which depicted the American War of Independence, and which was released before it was a fully completed film.[3] The film was a critical and commercial failure at the box office and earned Hudson a Golden Raspberry Award nomination for Worst Director.

Hudson's next theatrical feature film was Lost Angels (1989), nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival.[4] The film was an American-based drama starring Donald Sutherland and Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys and dealing with disaffected youth in California.


In 1999 Hudson directed My Life So Far. Jean Claude Carriere wrote of it, "Hugh Hudson's film My Life So Far is a delightful bittersweet film, which covers the start of a boy's life during the first part of the 20th century – from his last baby's bottle to his first cigar. A film which sadly is not known as well as it should be. It is a variation on a universal theme which will never end. There will always be men and women, old people and youngsters, horses and dogs."[citation needed] Hudson next directed I Dreamed of Africa (2000), which was the closing film of the Cannes Film Festival of that year.

In 2006 Hudson was reported to be working, together with producer John Heyman, on an historical epic based on the life of the monotheistic Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti.[5] The film centres around their tempestuous relationship.

In 2008 Hudson re-edited Revolution, giving the film a narration by Al Pacino. The Observer film critic Philip French writing about the new version said, "Revolution was misunderstood and unjustly treated on its first appearance twenty years ago. Seeing it again in the director's slightly revised version it now strikes me as a masterpiece – profound, poetic and original. Hudson's film should take its place among the great movies about history and about individual citizens living in times of dramatic social change. One hopes it will finally find the wide audience it deserves."[citation needed]

Hudson is currently co-producing Chariots of Fire, the 2012 stage adaptation of the film of the same title. The stage adaptation was his idea, for the London Olympic year.

In 2012, Hudson will direct Midnight Sun, a feature film about a child who tries to help a family of polar bears on the shrinking polar ice cap. Hudson co-wrote the script as well.[6]


In 1988 Hudson directed a 2½-minute advert for British Rail, a parody of the Post Office Film Unit's 25-minute documentary, Night Mail, made in 1936.[7] Poet W. H. Auden had written verse specifically to fit the original 1936 film's footage, which showed the enormous scale of BR's daily operation and the structure of the 'sectorised' business. The opening sequence of Hudson's British Rail advert features the northbound Travelling Post Office with Auden's original verse, narrated by Sir Tom Courtenay.

Some of the other many acclaimed advertisements created by Hudson include the 1989 British Airways "Face" advert[8] seen in over 80 countries around the world and running for almost a decade; the 1979 Fiat Strada Figaro advert;[9] and the Benson & Hedges "Swimming Pool" and "salvage" adverts .[10] In 2007 he created his Silverjet advert, a direct parody of his own 1989 British Airways advert.[11] He also created the Courage Best "Gercha" advert[12] and the Cinzano "Aeroplane" advert.[13] Hudson also directed Kinnock – The Movie (1987), an election broadcast for the British Labour Party.

In 2003, Hudson was given a special Cannes Lions award on the 50th Anniversary of the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, an award given only to directors who have won the Grand Prix more than once.[14] Hudson has won Grand Prix Cannes Lions awards for his 1972 Levi's "Walking Behinds"[15] and 1978 Coty L'Aimant "French Lesson" adverts.[16]


In August 2007, in Nîmes, France, "Un Realisateur dans la Ville", a festival created by Gérard Depardieu and Jean Claude Carriere to showcase each year the work of one director, featured the work of Hugh Hudson, showing eight films over 5 days. The festival premiered an Al Pacino-narrated version of Revolution called Revolution Revisited.

In October 2008 at the Dinard Festival of British Film, Hudson's work was honoured. As a tribute five of his films were shown, with My Life So Far opening the festival. Revolution Revisited was the subject of a Q&A by the director.

Personal life

Hudson's first marriage on 25 August 1977, was with painter Susan Michie, born 8 December 1946, the daughter of Alastair Milne Michie, with whom he had a son, born in 1978. In November 2003, he married actress Maryam d'Abo, who played Kara Milovy in The Living Daylights (1987).

Filmography as director

International awards

  • 1981: Cannes Golden Palm – nomination – Chariots of Fire
  • 1981: Toronto Audience Award – Chariots of Fire
  • 1982: Academy Awards – Chariots of Fire – Best Picture; nomination as Best Director
  • 1982: Golden Globe – Best Foreign Film
  • 1982: BAFTA – Best Picture
  • 1985: BFI – Technical achievement award – Greystoke
  • 1985: Cesar Awards – nomination, Best Foreign Film – Greystoke
  • 1985: Venice Film Festival Lion d'Or – nomination – Greystoke
  • 1986: Golden Raspberry Award – Revolution – nomination as Worst Director
  • 1989: Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival – nomination, Lost Angels
  • 2000: Cannes Festival 2000 – nominated closing film – I Dreamed of Africa
  • 2005: Taormina Festival – award for Cinematic Art
  • 2007: Cairo Film Festival – Silver Pyramid Award

Member of jury

  • Tokyo Film Festival (president) 1995
  • Istanbul Film Festival (president) 2001
  • Athens Film Festival (president) 2002
  • San Sebastian Film Festival 2003
  • Taormina (president and recipient of Arte award) Film Festival 2005
  • Mar del Plata Festival 2005
  • Tbilisi Film Festival (president) 2005
  • Sarajevo Film Festival 2006 and 2008
  • São Paulo Film Festival October 2008
  • Marrakesh Film Festival November 2008
  • Siberian Film Festival of Light (president) 2009
  • Vologda Independent Cinema from European Screens Festival (VOICES Festival)(President) July 2011
  • Bombay International Film Festival (president) 2011


  1. "New York Times". Retrieved 18 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Canby, Vincent (25 September 1981). "Olympic Glory in 'Chariots of Fire'". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 June 2009. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Solomons, Jason (22 March 2009). "'Pacino has never been more moving'". The Observer. The Guardian. Retrieved 12 June 2009. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Festival de Cannes: Lost Angels". Retrieved 1 August 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Film Overview". 1 May 2005. Retrieved 18 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Josh L. Dickey Film Editor @Variety_JLD. "''Variety''". Retrieved 18 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Britain's Railway Advert"
  8. "Hudson's BA "Face" advert". Retrieved 18 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Hudson's Fiat Strada "Handbuilt by Robots" advert". 22 February 1999. Retrieved 18 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Benson & Hedges "Swimming Pool" advert". Retrieved 18 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Silverjet "Face" advert and original BA "Face" advert". 4 October 2007. Retrieved 18 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Courage Best "Gercha" advert". Retrieved 18 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Cinzano "Airplane" advert". Retrieved 18 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Anderson, Mae. "Grand Prix Past Meets the Present." AdWeek. 11 June 2003.
  15. Hugh Hudson's Levi's advert at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival
  16. Hugh Hudson's Coty L'Aimant advert at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival

External links