David Yates

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David Yates
David Yates by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Yates at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con
Born (1963-10-08) 8 October 1963 (age 59)
Alma materUniversity of Essex (BA)[2]
National Film and Television School
  • Film director
  • producer
  • screenwriter
Years active1988–present
Notable workWizarding World franchise
SpouseYvonne Walcott

David Yates (born 8 October 1963) is an English film director, producer and screenwriter, who has directed feature films, short films, and television productions. He is best known for directing the final four films in the Harry Potter series and the first three films of its prequel series, Fantastic Beasts.[3][4] His work on the Harry Potter series brought him critical and commercial success along with accolades, such as the British Academy Britannia Award for Excellence in Directing.[4]

Yates directed various short films and became a television director early in his career. His credits include the six-part political thriller State of Play (2003), for which he won the Directors Guild of Great Britain Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement, the adult two-part documentary drama Sex Traffic (2004) and the Emmy Award-winning television film The Girl in the Café (2005).[3][5][6]

Yates is a founding member of Directors UK.[7] He has had a close partnership with Warner Bros. as a director and producer.[8]

Early life[edit]

David was born on 8 October 1963 in St Helens, Lancashire, England.[n 1] His parents died when he was young.[9] Raised in the village of Rainhill, Yates was inspired to pursue a career in filmmaking after watching Steven Spielberg's 1975 movie Jaws.[1] Yates's mother bought him a Super 8mm camera. He used this to shoot various films in which his friends and family featured.[10] One such film, The Ghost Ship, was shot on board the vessel where his uncle worked as a cook.[11] He attended Grange Park High School,[12] St Helens College and then the University of Essex.[13][14][15] Yates said that he "used to skive off college all the time" and never expected to join university before being surprised by his A-Level exam results. While at the University of Essex, Yates formed the Film and Video Production Society.[16] He graduated with a BA in Government in 1987.[17]


Television and film career (1988–2005)[edit]

The National Film and Television School, where Yates trained as a director[18]

In 1988, Yates made his first film When I Was a Girl in Swindon. The film entered the festival circuit where it was named Best Short Film at the San Francisco International Film Festival. It contributed towards Yates's acceptance into the National Film and Television School in 1989 and led to the BBC hiring him to direct Oranges and Lemons, a short drama film in 1991. Before completing film school, he began to direct, produce and write the screenplay to the dramatic short The Weaver's Wife. He also made his fourth short film, Good Looks, which was presented at the Chicago International Film Festival. After graduating in 1992, Yates directed an episode of the film studies programme Moving Pictures.[10][13][19][20][21][22]

From 1994 to 1995, Yates directed several episodes of the ITV police procedural The Bill before directing and producing three episodes of the television documentary Tale of Three Seaside Towns alongside producer Alistair Clarke. The programme followed media personalities Russell Grant, Honor Blackman and Pam Ayres visiting and exploring the South Coast towns of Brighton, Eastbourne and Weymouth.[23][24] Yates directed his fifth short film Punch before making his feature film debut in 1998 with the release of the independent historical-drama film The Tichborne Claimant. The film, which was shown at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, was written by Joe Fisher and based on the true events of the Tichborne Case. It starred Stephen Fry and Robert Hardy and was shot on location in Merseyside and on the Isle of Man.[25][26][27]

Yates returned to television in 2000 to direct the episodes of Greed, Envy and Lust for the BBC miniseries The Sins, starring Pete Postlethwaite, as well as The Way We Live Now, the four-part television adaptation of the novel of the same name by Anthony Trollope. Yates shared the British Academy Television Award for Best Drama Serial with screenwriter Andrew Davies and producer Nigel Stafford-Clark at the 2002 BAFTA Awards.[28]

One year later, Yates attended the 56th BAFTA Awards with a British Academy Film Award nomination for Best Short Film for the fourteen-minute production, Rank, which expressed the social elements of racism, friendship and adolescence through the story of a street gang that cross Glasgow to witness the arrival of a group of Somali refugees.[29][30] Yates said that even though The Way We Live Now was "a very big production" and "enormous fun to do", Rank was an opportunity to "shake all that off" and "get back to [his] roots". Of the casting, Yates said that he "wanted to use non-actors to tell the story, to create a reality ... the kids we cast in Glasgow had never done a film before."[10] The film was noted for its gritty style and cinematography, with a review from Eye For Film stating that "such intelligent use of camera and cast lifts Yates out of the pool of promising young directors into the front line of genuine hopefuls. This work demands respect."[19][31]

The 2003 six-part thriller State of Play was Yates's next achievement.[5] Yates collected the TV Spielfilm Award at the Cologne Conference in Germany and won the Directors Guild of Great Britain Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement.[3][32] The serial was recognised by various award ceremonies, receiving the Peabody Award for Broadcasting Excellence and being presented with two British Academy Television Craft Awards.[33] The quality of the serial sparked Hollywood film bosses to consider adapting it into a film, with producer Andrew Hauptman declaring that "it's a blistering political thriller and we want to make an equally blistering movie."[34] State of Play is regarded by critics from The Guardian and The Times as one of the best British television dramas of the 2000s.[35][36][37]

Yates directed the television adaptation of nine-year-old Daisy Ashford's novel The Young Visiters, starring Jim Broadbent alongside Hugh Laurie. According to a review by Variety magazine for BBC America, Yates and his team yielded "a warm and surprisingly unsentimental production that has 'evergreen' written all over it".[38]

In 2004, Yates's two-part drama Sex Traffic was broadcast on Channel 4. It won eight BAFTA Awards including Best Editing for Mark Day, who regularly worked with Yates on many of his television projects and short films. Day commented on his collaboration with Yates saying that "we are very good friends because we have spent so much time together". He also said, "David shoots in a similar style from piece to piece, although this wasn’t quite as frantic as State of Play."[39] Yates was nominated for another Directors Guild of Great Britain Award for his direction of Sex Traffic and won his second BAFTA for Best Drama Serial at the British Academy Television Awards.[40] Being a British-Canadian production, Sex Traffic gained four wins at Canada's annual television award ceremony, the Gemini Awards, including Best Dramatic Miniseries. Spanning across two parts, the three-hour-long drama reveals how the trafficking of young women into slavery is a big business which operates throughout Europe; both parts were acclaimed for their "shocking" portrayal of such a sensitive topic.[41][42][43]

Also in 2004, Yates was involved in plans for a film adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited for Warner Independent Pictures. He was set to work with Paul Bettany, Jude Law and Jennifer Connelly on the project, but pulled out in the later stages due to constant budget issues affecting the film's production.[44][45]

Yates then directed Richard Curtis' script to The Girl in the Café, a television film starring Bill Nighy and Kelly Macdonald. In June 2005, the film was aired on the BBC in Britain and was also broadcast in the United States on Home Box Office. The Girl in the Café achieved three wins at the Emmy Awards, including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Made for Television Movie, and gained a total of four nominations including Outstanding Directing for Yates.[13][46][47]

Harry Potter (2006–2011)[edit]

Yates outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre at the premiere of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on 8 July 2007

During the period of working on plans for Brideshead Revisited, Yates was told by his agent that he had made the director shortlist for the fifth film in the Harry Potter series and that Warner Bros. was eyeing him to direct. He was then shortly after confirmed to direct Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by Warner Bros. Pictures, with production scheduled to begin in early 2006.[45][48] When asked how Yates got the job, producer David Heyman ("a big fan" of Yates's television work)[49] said that "actors in David's television projects give their best performance, often of their career. It's important to keep pushing the actors, particularly the young ones on each Potter film. This is a political film, not with a capital P, but it's about teen rebellion and the abuse of power. David has made films in the U.K. about politics without being heavy handed."[50]

Before production began, Yates invited Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire director Mike Newell to a pub and "picked his brains about what it was going to be like to step into someone's shoes on a movie of this scale".[3] The first scene that Yates shot featured a giant interacting with human characters. The scene was the very first high-scale visual effects piece Yates filmed in his career.[3][51] After the film's post-production material was well received by the studio, Yates was chosen to direct the sixth film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which according to Yates was going to be "a cross between the chills of Prisoner of Azkaban [the third film in the series] and the fantastical adventure of Goblet of Fire".[6][44]

In 2007, Order of the Phoenix opened to positive reviews and commercial success. Yates won the title of Best Director at the Empire Awards and collected the People's Choice Award from the European Film Academy.[52] However, the film was criticised by fans of the series for having the shortest running time out of the five released instalments; Yates said that the original director's cut was "probably over three hours", resulting in much footage being cut, condensed and edited to fit within the studio's preferred time frame.[53][54]

During production of Half-Blood Prince, Warner Bros. executive Alan F. Horn announced that the seventh and final novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was to be split into two cinematic parts with Yates, once again, as the director.[55] Yates spoke of the decision to appoint him as the director of the final films, remarking that "they wanted to do a Harry Potter that felt ... more grown up. What's smart about the studio and the producers is they have always wanted to push it a bit. Chris Columbus did a wonderful job of casting and making this world incredibly popular. But rather than do more of the same, they said, 'Let's bring in Alfonso Cuarón and let him run with it. Then later, let's bring in David Yates, who's done all this hard-hitting stuff on TV.' It's a testament to their ambition to try to keep the franchise fresh. The bizarre thing is, I did one [film] and they asked me to stay for three more, so obviously they liked something."[3]

Half-Blood Prince was released in 2009 and became the only film in the series to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography.[56][57] Yates worked alongside French cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel on, what Yates called, extensively colour grading the "incredibly rich" picture by making it look "very European" and drawing influences from the Dutch painter Rembrandt.[58][59][60] The film garnered a mix of accolades and was acclaimed for its stylised character-driven approach, but some fans complained about the script's deviation from the novel and the film's slight romantic comedy nature.[61] In response to this criticism, renowned BAFTA member and film critic Mark Kermode praised Yates's direction and ranked the film "second best" in the series, behind Prisoner of Azkaban.[62]

Yates began to film Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Deathly Hallows – Part 2 back-to-back in early 2009 and finished reshoots in late 2010.[63] He stated that he had shot the two parts of the final adaptation differently, with Part 1 being a "road movie" and "quite real", "almost like a vérité documentary", while Part 2 is "more operatic, colourful and fantasy-oriented", a "big opera with huge battles."[64][65][66] Yates reshot the final scene of the Harry Potter series at Leavesden Studios after the original version, filmed at London King's Cross railway station, did not meet his expectations. In the film, the scene takes place at the magical Platform 9¾.[67]

Part 1 was released worldwide in November 2010 to commercial success along with generally positive reviews, some of which reflected on Yates's directing style. The Dallas Morning News affirmed that "David Yates' fluid, fast-paced direction sends up the crackling tension of a thriller" and The New York Times analysed Yates's approach to J. K. Rowling's character development by saying that he has "demonstrated a thorough, uncondescending sympathy for her characters, in particular the central trio of Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger and Harry Potter himself."[68][69] The film was praised for its "dark" atmosphere and its loyalty to the source material, but it was criticised for its slow middle act, the handling of exposition, and the somewhat disjointed pacing.[70][71]

Part 2 was screened in July 2011 and became an instant record-breaking success with critical acclaim.[72][73] The Daily Telegraph described Part 2 as "monumental cinema awash with gorgeous tones" and Total Film wrote that Yates combines "spectacle and emotion into a thrilling final chapter."[74][75] Author J. K. Rowling remarked that "everyone who watches Deathly Hallows – Part 2 is going to see that he's steered us home magnificently. It's incredible."[76][77] Part 2 is one of two Harry Potter films to pass the $1 billion mark during its original theatrical run; it became the highest-grossing film in the series and the highest-grossing film of 2011, making Yates the director of the highest-grossing non-James Cameron film of all time in August 2011.[78][79] Amongst other accolades, Yates won his second Empire Award for Best Director and joined the principal creative team of Harry Potter in receiving the 2012 ADG Award for Outstanding Contribution to Cinematic Imagery for their work on Deathly Hallows – Part 2 and the series in general.[80]

Yates attended the 64th British Academy Film Awards in February 2011, where he was joined by J. K. Rowling, David Heyman, Mike Newell, Alfonso Cuarón, David Barron, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson in collecting the Michael Balcon Award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema on behalf of the Harry Potter films. Daniel Radcliffe, who portrayed the films' titular character, commented on working with Yates, saying that he "added his own sense of grit and realism [to the series] that perhaps wasn't there so much before. I think we all had a fantastic time working with David. I know we did."[1][81]

Tyrant and Tarzan (2012–2016)[edit]

By 2012, Yates was working on a few Warner Bros. projects, including a Tarzan feature film and an Al Capone biopic called Cicero.[82][83] He also controversially said that he was working with BBC Worldwide on plans to develop a Doctor Who film,[84] although this was denied by the showrunner, Steven Moffat, in July 2012.[85] Because of production delays, Yates began to explore other projects including television work.[86]

Yates speaking at San Diego Comic-Con International, 2016

In 2013, he returned to television by signing on to direct the television pilot of Tyrant, an American drama production set against the US–Middle East conflict.[87] The following year, Yates began shooting The Legend of Tarzan, starring Alexander Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Margot Robbie, Djimon Hounsou, Jim Broadbent, and Christoph Waltz. The film, released in 2016, opened to mixed reviews and a worldwide total of $356.7 million.[88]

Fantastic Beasts series (2016–2022)[edit]

Yates directed Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a 2016 film which is the first in a series of five instalments based on J. K. Rowling's book, set in the world of her Harry Potter novels.[89] David Heyman and Harry Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves joined Yates and J. K. Rowling in developing the script.[90] The film was released in November 2016, it received generally positive reviews and was a commercial success having grossed $814 million. It stars Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell, and Johnny Depp.

Yates directed the 2018 sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald which received mixed critical reception but emerged a box office success having grossed $654 million. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he stated he was open to directing all five planned films in the Fantastic Beasts series.[91] He returned to direct the third film, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022).

Yates will next direct the drama film Pain Hustlers, starring Emily Blunt, for Netflix. Production is expected to begin on 22 August 2022.[92][93]

Personal life[edit]

Yates has a younger brother and an elder sister.[9] He is married to Yvonne Walcott.[12] He is the uncle of professional footballer Theo Walcott.[94]

Directorial style[edit]

Commenting on their work on Harry Potter, Emma Watson stated that Yates liked to push the cast and crew to physical and emotional extremes, with Gary Oldman confirming Yates's preference for working slowly by shooting numerous takes to draw the finest performances out of the cast.[95][96] Yates has been influenced by such directors as Steven Spielberg, David Lean, and Ken Loach.[10] Yates's style of work includes social and political themes, character-driven narratives, realism, and atmospheric drama.[97][98][99]


Short films[edit]

Year Title Notes
1988 When I Was a Girl Also screenwriter and producer
1991 The Weaver's Wife Also screenwriter
Oranges and Lemons
1992 Good Looks
1996 Punch
2002 Rank

Feature films[edit]

Year Title Notes
1998 The Tichborne Claimant
2007 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
2009 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
2010 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1
2011 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
2016 The Legend of Tarzan Also executive producer
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
2018 Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
2022 Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
TBA Pain Hustlers Also producer


Year Title Notes
1994 Moving Pictures Documentary series; episode: "Low Budget"
1994–95 The Bill Episodes:
  • ''Death and Taxes''
  • ''Full Contact''
  • ''Life's a Bitch''
  • ''Feeling Guilty''
  • ''Other Voice''
1995 Tale of Three Seaside Towns Documentary miniseries; co-director and co-producer in all three episodes (with Alistair Clarke)
2000 The Sins Miniseries; episodes:
  • ''Lust''
  • ''Envy''
  • ''Greed''
2001 The Way We Live Now Miniseries; all 4 episodes
2003 State of Play Miniseries; all 6 episodes
The Young Visiters Television film
2004 Sex Traffic Miniseries; all 2 episodes
2005 The Girl in the Café Television film
2014 Tyrant Episode: "Pilot", also executive producer


Only certain awards for Yates's direction are shown in this section. A complete list of awards for a project may be found on its article page.

Year Award Category Title Result
1991 Cork International Film Festival Best European Short When I Was a Girl Won
San Francisco International Film Festival:
Golden Gate Award
Best Short Film Won
Belfort Film Festival Best Film Won
1992 Chicago International Film Festival: Silver Hugo Good Looks Won
1998 Emden Film Festival Award The Tichborne Claimant Nominated
2002 BAFTA: British Academy Television Award Best Drama Serial The Way We Live Now Won
2003 BAFTA: British Academy Film Award Best Short Film Rank Nominated
Directors Guild of Great Britain Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a TV Movie/Serial State of Play Won
2004 BAFTA: British Academy Television Award Best Drama Serial Nominated
Cologne Conference: TV Spielfilm Award Best Fiction Programme Won
Directors Guild of Great Britain Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a TV Movie/Miniseries Sex Traffic Nominated
2005 BAFTA: British Academy Television Award Best Drama Serial Won
Prix Italia Best TV Movie or Miniseries Won
2006 Cinema For Peace Most valuable work of a director, producer or screenwriter The Girl in the Café Won
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special Nominated
2008 Empire Award Best Director Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Won
Saturn Award Best Director Nominated
2010 NFTS Honorary Fellowship Outstanding Contribution to the British Film and Television Industry Won
2011 BAFTA: Britannia Award (Los Angeles) John Schlesinger Britannia Award for Excellence in Directing Harry Potter
Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, Deathly Hallows
Saturn Award Best Director Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 Nominated
Scream Award Best Director Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 Nominated
2012 Saturn Award Best Director Nominated
SFX Award Best Director Nominated
Empire Award Best Director Won
University of Essex Honorary Degree Won
2016 BAFTA: British Academy Film Award Outstanding British Film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Nominated


  1. ^ Yates was born in Lancashire, 1963, and was raised in the village of Rainhill. This was before the creation of the Metropolitan Borough of St Helens, Merseyside in April 1974, in which Rainhill is now included.


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  2. ^ "After Essex: In Conversation with David Yates | University of Essex". Essex.ac.uk. Retrieved 3 December 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Andrew Pulver. "The Wizard Behind the Camera". DGA Quarterly, Directors Guild of America. Retrieved 4 March 2011.
  4. ^ a b "BAFTA Honors John Lasseter and David Yates 11/30". Broadway World (Los Angeles). 28 June 2011. Retrieved 28 June 2011. The worldwide success of Mr. Lasseter for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and Mr. Yates's contribution to the final four parts of the 'Harry Potter' franchise makes them global wizards in their own right, and are delighted to honor these remarkable filmmakers with this year's Britannia Award.
  5. ^ a b "David Yates Does It All". MovieMaker. 9 July 2009. Archived from the original on 11 January 2013. Retrieved 4 March 2011.
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  18. ^ "Honorary Fellows". NFTS. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
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  21. ^ "Current Composer/Director Partnerships, 2009 Edition". filmscoremonthly.com. Scott Bettencourt, Film Score Monthly. 22 November 2009. Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2011. NICHOLAS HOOPER/DAVID YATES "THE WEAVER'S WIFE", "GOOD LOOKS"
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  23. ^ "The Tichborne Claimant". Philip Kemp, Sight and Sound. December 1999. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2011. Yates, making his feature-film debut after directing television documentaries about British seaside towns...
  24. ^ "Cast & Creative ... Honor Blackman". My Fair Lady. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2011. Honor presented a documentary for Workhouse TV/Meridian about Brighton which formed part of A TALE OF THREE SEASIDE TOWNS.
  25. ^ "PUNCH". British Board of Film Classification. 9 February 1996. Retrieved 14 March 2011.
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  31. ^ "Rank ... 4.5/5 stars". Angus Wolfe Murray, Eye for Film. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
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  39. ^ "Editor wins his second consecutive BAFTA award over campaigning drama". Get Surrey. 19 May 2005. Retrieved 4 March 2011.
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  45. ^ a b Harvey, Dennis (18 July 2008). "Variety Reviews: Brideshead Revisited". Variety. Retrieved 4 March 2011. Reportedly, Paul Bettany, Jude Law and Jennifer Connelly were attached until helmer David Yates was poached for last year's 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.' One can say, in this case, that settling for the B team turned out well.
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External links[edit]

Preceded by Harry Potter film director
Succeeded by
End of Series
Preceded by NFTS Honorary Fellowship
Succeeded by