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Ted Kotcheff

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Ted Kotcheff
William Theodore Kotcheff

(1931-04-07) April 7, 1931 (age 93)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Other namesWilliam T. Kotcheff
Velichko Todorov Tsochev
  • Canada
  • Bulgaria
  • Director
  • Producer
Years active1956–present
(m. 1960; div. 1972)
  • Laifun Chung
Children5, including Thomas

William Theodore Kotcheff (born April 7, 1931) is a Canadian director and producer of film and television.[1] He is known for directing such films as the seminal Australian New Wave picture Wake in Fright (1971), the Mordechai Richler adaptations The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974) and Joshua Then and Now (1985), the original Rambo film First Blood (1982), and the comedies Fun with Dick and Jane (1977), North Dallas Forty (1979), and Weekend at Bernie's (1989).

Kotcheff has been nominated for a Genie Award for Best Achievement in Direction, a Gemini Award for Best Direction in a Dramatic Program or Mini-Series, and twice for the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or. He won the Golden Bear at the 1974 Berlin International Film Festival for The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, and the British Academy Television Award for Best Drama Series for his work on Play for Today. He received the Directors Guild of Canada’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011,[2] and the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television’s Board of Directors’ Tribute Award in 2014.[3]

He has been described by the Toronto International Film Festival as a “talented, multi-faceted journeyman director in the tradition of Leo McCarey or Robert Wise.”[4]

Early life[edit]

Kotcheff's name was registered in official documents as William Theodore Kotcheff[5] in Toronto, where he was born into[5][6] a family of Bulgarian immigrants,[7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15] who changed their last name from Tsochev (Bulgarian: Цочев) to Kotcheff for convenience.[5] His father was born in Plovdiv, and his mother was of Macedonian Bulgarian background, from Vambel, today in Greece, but grew up in Varna, Bulgaria.[16] His birth name is Velichko Todorov Tsochev (Bulgarian: Величко Тодоров Цочев, [veˈlit͡ʃko toˈdɔrof ˈt͡sɔt͡ʃef]).


Canadian television[edit]

After graduating in English Literature from University College, University of Toronto, Kotcheff began his television career at the age of twenty-four when he joined the staff of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, with television in its infancy. Kotcheff was the youngest director on the staff of the CBC, where he worked for two years on shows such as General Motors Theatre, Encounter, First Performance and On Camera.

British television[edit]

In 1958, he left Canada to live and work in the United Kingdom. He was soon followed by his compatriot Sydney Newman, who had been the Director of Drama at the CBC and then to the United Kingdom to take up a similar position at ABC Weekend TV, one of the franchise holders of the ITV network who also produced much of the nationally networked programming for the channel.

At ABC, Newman was producer of the popular Armchair Theatre anthology drama programme, on which Kotcheff worked as a director between 1957 and 1960. Kotcheff was responsible for directing some of the best-remembered instalments. During Underground, transmitted live on 30 November 1958, Kotcheff was required to cope when one of the actors, Gareth Jones, playing a character who was to die of a heart attack, suddenly died of one himself, off-camera, while between scenes, leaving Peter Bowles and others to improvise.

More successfully, Kotcheff directed the following year's No Trams to Lime Street by Welsh playwright Alun Owen. He also did Hour of Mystery, I'll Have You to Remember (1961) by Clive Exton, and episodes of BBC Sunday-Night Play, ITV Television Playhouse, Espionage, First Night, ABC Stage 67, Drama 61-67 and ITV Playhouse.


Kotcheff also worked in the theatre.[17] He directed the original 1964-65 West End production of the musical Maggie May at the Adelphi Theatre,[18] which won the Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Score of the Year and the Critics' Poll as Best New British Musical.[19]

British feature films[edit]

Kotcheff made his first film with Tiara Tahiti (1962). He directed other features during the decade, including Life at the Top (1965) and Two Gentlemen Sharing (1969).

He also directed The Human Voice (1967) for British television, starring Ingrid Bergman from a story by Jean Cocteau and TV remakes of The Desperate Hours (1967) and Of Mice and Men (1968). He directed the concert At the Drop of Another Hat for TV.

Kotcheff directed the Australian film Wake in Fright (USA: Outback, 1971; re-released with its original title, 2012).[20] It won much critical acclaim in Europe, and was Australia's entry at the Cannes Film Festival. (In 2009, Wake in Fright was re-released on DVD and Blu-ray disc in a fully restored version.)

Kotcheff returned to television, directing the Play for Today production Edna, the Inebriate Woman (1971) for the BBC, which won him a British Academy Television Award for Best Director. In 2000, the play was voted one of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes of the 20th century in a poll of industry professionals conducted by the British Film Institute.

Return to Canada[edit]

He returned home to Canada, where he directed an adaptation of his friend and one-time housemate Mordecai Richler's novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974) which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival[21] making it the first English Canadian dramatic feature film to win an international award.

He wrote and directed The Trial of Sinyavsky and Daniel (1975) for Canadian television and was a production consultant on Why Shoot the Teacher? (1977).


In Hollywood, he directed Fun with Dick and Jane (1977) which was a big hit. He followed it with the comedy Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? (1978) then wrote and directed North Dallas Forty (1979) which was critically acclaimed.

Kotcheff directed the Canadian film Split Image (1982), then had his biggest success to date with the Sylvester Stallone movie First Blood (1982), the first in the Rambo series. He worked on another Vietnam-themed action movie Uncommon Valor (1983), then returned to Canada to make Joshua Then and Now (1985), from the novel by Mordecai Richler.

Kotcheff directed Switching Channels (1988) and Winter People (1989), then had a big hit with Weekend at Bernie's (1989).


In the 1990s, Kotcheff returned to directing for TV, working on various American series such as Red Shoe Diaries, and Buddy Faro as well as Casualty in the UK.

He did the occasional feature film such as Folks! (1992) and The Shooter (1995). He did TV movies like What Are Families for? (1993), Love on the Run (1994), Family of Cops (1995), A Husband, a Wife and a Lover (1996), Borrowed Hearts (1997), Cry Rape (1999). He joined the staff of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, where he acts as executive producer and director.

Personal life[edit]

Kotcheff lives in Beverly Hills with his wife Laifun. They have two children: Alexandra, a filmmaker, and Thomas, a composer and pianist. He has three children from his previous marriage to actress Sylvia Kay: Aaron, Katrina and Joshua.[citation needed] Ted Kotcheff is also vegetarian.[22]

In May and June 2013, he was invited to the Film Forum in New York City for a re-release of his film The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, restored by the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television.[citation needed]

In February 2016, Kotcheff applied for Bulgarian citizenship via the Bulgarian consulate in Los Angeles,[23][24] and was granted this during a visit to Bulgaria in March.[25]

Given his Macedonian heritage, Kotcheff served on the board of directors of the Macedonian Arts Council. According to Kotcheff, there is not a difference between Macedonia and Bulgaria.[26]


Director (Film)[edit]

Director (Television)[edit]

Awards and honours[edit]

Year Award Category Film Result[21][27][28]
1971 Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix du Festival International du Film Wake in Fright Nominated
1972 British Academy Television Awards Best Drama Production Play for Today: "Edna, the Inebriate Woman" Won
1974 Berlin International Film Festival Golden Bear The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz Won
1985 Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Joshua Then and Now Nominated
1986 Genie Awards Best Director Nominated
1989 Deauville Film Festival Critics Award Weekend at Bernie's Nominated
1998 Gemini Awards Best TV Movie or Dramatic Mini-Series Borrowed Hearts Nominated
2011 Directors Guild of Canada Lifetime Achievement Award Won
Oldenburg International Film Festival German Independence Honorary Award Won
2014 Chicago International Film Festival Gold Hugo for Best Short Film Fearless Nominated
Canadian Screen Awards Academy Board of Directors' Tribute Won
2018 22nd Independent Publisher Book Awards Performing Arts (Silver) Director's Cut: My Life in Film Won


  1. ^ Making It Like a Man: Canadian Masculinities in Practice, Christine Ramsay (ed), Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2012; p. 115, ISBN 1554582792
  2. ^ Star, Martin Knelman Special to the (2011-10-28). "The apprenticeship of Ted Kotcheff". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2024-03-12.
  3. ^ Star, Martin Knelman Special to the (2013-12-13). "Ted Kotcheff and Colm Feore honoured at Canadian Screen Awards". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2024-03-12.
  4. ^ "Canadian Film Encyclopedia - Ted Kotcheff". cfe.tiff.net. Retrieved 2024-03-12.
  5. ^ a b c "20 v"prosa: Ted Kochev" 20 въпроса: Тед Кочев [20 questions: Ted Kotcheff]. Capital.bg (in Bulgarian). Economedia. 2016-02-29.
  6. ^ "Ted Kotcheff biography". filmreference.com. Retrieved 2016-08-05.
  7. ^ Slaviani, Tom 24, Slavianski komitet v Bŭlgaria, Komitet za bŭlgarite v chuzb̈ina, 1968, str. 87.
  8. ^ Magocsi, Paul R. (1999). Encyclopedia of Canada's peoples - Paul R. Magocsi, Multicultural History, pp. 287 - 292, University of Toronto Press, 1999, ISBN 0-8020-2938-8. ISBN 9780802029386. Retrieved 2011-05-11.
  9. ^ Loring M. Danforth The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World, pp. 85-89: "The largest number of Slavic-speaking immigrants from Macedonia came to the United States during the first decades of the twentieth century, at which time they identified themselves either as Bulgarians or as Macedonian-Bulgarians".
  10. ^ "The apprenticeship of Ted Kotcheff | Toronto Star". thestar.com. 28 October 2011. Retrieved 2016-08-05.
  11. ^ "Duddy and Me | By Alec Scott | Summer 2016 | University of Toronto Magazine". magazine.utoronto.ca. 21 October 2013. Retrieved 2016-08-05.
  12. ^ Richmond, Yale (1995-01-01). From Da to Yes: Understanding the East Europeans. Intercultural Press. ISBN 9781877864308.
  13. ^ Leyda, Jay (1977-01-01). Voices of film experience: 1894 to the present. Macmillan. ISBN 9780025716001.
  14. ^ Brown, Gene (1984-01-01). The New York Times encyclopedia of film. Times Books. ISBN 9780812910599.
  15. ^ [1] Duddy and Me ()They were both immigrants from Bulgaria, she was of Macedonian descent
  16. ^ Ted Kotcheff’s Bulgarian journey. The Sofia Globe, March 24, 2016.
  17. ^ "Ted Kotcheff | Theatricalia". theatricalia.com. Retrieved 2024-03-12.
  18. ^ "Production of Maggie May | Theatricalia". theatricalia.com. Retrieved 2024-03-12.
  19. ^ "Obituary: Lionel Bart". The Independent. 1999-04-04. Retrieved 2024-03-12.
  20. ^ Hartl, John (October 25, 2012). "'Wake in Fright': Restored outback drama hasn't lost chilling effect". The Seattle Times.
  21. ^ a b "Berlinale 1974: Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2010-07-02.
  22. ^ Skinner, Craig (24 March 2014). "Ted Kotcheff discusses Wake in Fright, kangaroo slaughter and existentialism". Film Divider. Archived from the original on 27 December 2014. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  23. ^ В-к "Труд", 11.02.2016 г. Режисьорът на "Рамбо" Тед Кочев иска българско гражданство.
  24. ^ "Hollywood legend applies for Bulgarian citizenship". www.europost.bg. Retrieved 2016-08-05.
  25. ^ US Director Ted Kotcheff Granted Bulgarian Citizenship, Sofia News Agency, March 19, 2016.
  26. ^ Режисьорът Тед Кочев: България и Македония са едно. Вестник Труд, 16.03.2016 г.
  27. ^ "Ted Kotcheff Awards". IMDb. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  28. ^ "2018 Independent Publisher Book Awards General Results". Independent Publisher. Retrieved May 30, 2018.

External links[edit]