Antonia Bird

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Antonia Bird
Born 27 May 1951
Kensington, London, England, UK
Died 24 October 2013(2013-10-24) (aged 62)
London, England, UK
Occupation Theatre, television & film director
Years active 1968–2013

Antonia Bird, FRSA (27 May 1951 – 24 October 2013)[1][2] was an English television drama and feature film director.[3]


Bird began working in theatre as an assistant stage manager at Coventry Rep in 1968 aged 17,[1] working her way up in varying roles from acting to stage management through publicity and theatre administration to directing in repertory and regional theatres. She started by directing a season of plays at The Studio at Chester Theatre[clarification needed] and soon after joined the company of the Phoenix Theatre (Leicester), where she directed a variety of productions, including Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw.[4]

She was named Resident Director at the Royal Court Theatre in 1978. She was appointed Artistic Director of the Royal Court's Theatre Upstairs, London's leading venue for new writing. Her first television production was Submariners (1983), an adaptation of one of her Royal Court productions which she directed for the BBC.[5] She was recruited by the originators and founding producers of EastEnders, Julia Smith and Tony Holland, to direct the series in 1985; she directed seventeen episodes. The originators of a new BBC series, Casualty (1986), then recruited her to be one of the series' first directors. Her reputation as a film-maker started to take off with her highly regarded six-part adaptation of Ann Oakley's feminist novel, The Men's Room (BBC 1991). Her next production was a feature length film adaptation of Joan Smith's novel, A Masculine Ending (1992).[citation needed]

Her breakthrough film was Safe (BBC 1993), based on the lives of a group of homeless young people in London's West End, which was awarded the Best Single Drama TV BAFTA; the film also won a British Academy Award and a clutch of festival prizes including the Edinburgh International Film Festival First Film Award and Best British Film at the Dinard Film Festival. The film brought Bird to international attention but was overshadowed by the success of the controversial Priest (BBC/Miramax 1994), which she directed immediately following Safe.

Her film Care, broadcast in 2000, dealt with sexual abuse in a children's home, also won the Best Single Drama TV BAFTA. The Jimmy McGovern-penned Priest won various international festival prizes, including the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, and the International Critics Award at the Berlin Film Festival, allowing the film to garner international theatrical distribution that it might not have otherwise. Bird was also awarded a BAFTA Children's Award for the 2009 BBC documentary Off By Heart, about a national poetry competition for schoolchildren.[6]

She developed feature films with Sony, Columbia, Warner Brothers, Fine Line and some American independent companies. She returned to London[when?] to shoot Face (UIP/New Line 1997), a gangster film which starred Ray Winstone, Robert Carlyle and Damon Albarn. She was back in the U.S. to develop the dark cannibal horror satire Ravenous with Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle and David Arquette (20th Century Fox 1999).[3]

In 2005 she produced her long-term project, Faith, a 4Way Pictures/Company Pictures production about the 1994-95 national miners strike. In 2010 she and TV writer Kay Mellor realized her story of Mellor's mother [7] in A Passionate Woman (BBC 2010), which they co-directed. In 2012 she directed the first four episodes of Peter Moffat's BBC series, The Village.[citation needed]

Bird was an executive producer of the Iraqi film Son of Babylon.[8]


She was a member of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; the British Academy of Film and Television, the Directors Guild of America, Directors UK, BECTU, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

She served on the Advisory Panel for Fiction Directing at The National Film and Television School. She mentored regularly for the NFTS, BAFTA's Youth Mentoring Programme in association with Media Trust and Women in Film and Television. She was Artistic Director of the first Sundance Middle East Screenwriting Labs held in Jordan. She taught a screenwriting course for University of Southern California graduate students visiting Pembroke College, Cambridge.[citation needed]


Bird died from a rare anaplastic thyroid cancer on 24 October 2013 at the age of 62. She is survived by her husband, Ian Ilet.[1]





  1. ^ a b c Kate Hardie "Antonia Bird obituary", The Guardian, 28 October 2013
  2. ^ The day she died is given as 25 October 2013 in Obituary: Antonia Bird,, 27 October 2013
  3. ^ a b Maane Khatchatourian. "Antonia Bird, Director of 'Ravenous', Dead". Variety. Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  4. ^ Simon Farquhar "Obituary: Antonia Bird, Television director with a flair for gritty realism", The Independent, 30 October 2013
  5. ^ Submariners, BFI Film Forever. Although it went out in the Play for Today slot it is one of a sequence of 'stand alone' single plays. See "Play Not-Quite-For Today" , TV Cream
  6. ^ "Antonia Bird, film and TV director, dies". BBC. 26 October 2013. Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  7. ^ Mellor, Kay (2010-04-09). "Kay Mellor believed ...". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2013-11-06. 
  8. ^ Anderson, John (2010-02-02). "Son of Babylon (Review)". Variety. Retrieved 2013-11-06. 

External links[edit]


  • Ciecko, Anne T. "Sex, God, Television, Realism, and the British Women Filmmakers Beeban Kidron and Antonia Bird", Journal of Film and Video, Spring 1999, pages 22–41
  • McCabe, Bob. "East End Heat", Sight and Sound, October 1997, pp. 10–12