Gavin Millar, film and television director. Born: 11 January 1938 in Clydebank. Died: 20 April 20 2022, aged 84

Scotsman Obituaries: Gavin Millar, Scots filmmaker who worked with Dennis Potter
© Gavin Millar, pictured around 2006, began working in TV in the Sixties (Picture: ITV/Shutterstock)

There was a time when Gavin Millar was so ubiquitous presenting arts programmes such as Arena and Talking Pictures that the Monty Python team featured a highbrow critic of that name in one of their sketches, pontificating on the merits of a playwright called Neville Shunt, the content of whose work appears to be train schedules.

“Some people have made the mistake of seeing Shunt’s work as a load of rubbish about railway timetables, but clever people like me, who talk loudly in restaurants, see this as a deliberate ambiguity, a plea for understanding in a mechanised world,” says the character, played by John Cleese.

The real Gavin Millar trod the boards at Oxford in a student production of The Tempest with Melvyn Bragg and he came up through the ranks of the fledgling BBC2 in the mid-1960s.

He might have seemed like the epitome of the chattering classes, but Millar actually came from a working class background in Clydebank. His parents both worked in the Singer sewing machine factory before moving to the Midlands when Millar was just a boy.

Millar was seemingly highly amused at being immortalised by the Pythons and went on to develop a career as a director in film and television dramas, working with Dennis Potter and Alan Bennett.

And in his sixties he returned to his home town of Clydebank to shoot a scene in Complicity, his film version of the Iain Banks novel, starring Jonny Lee Miller as a journalist who gets caught up in the series of murders of corrupt high-profile individuals.

After the move to England Millar went to school in Birmingham, he did National Service in the RAF, studied English at Christ Church Oxford and film at Slade School of Fine Art in London. He began working in television in the early 1960s, on programmes that included the current affairs show Tonight and the satirical That Was The Week That Was. The launch of BBC2 in 1964 offered fresh opportunities, presenting, directing and producing various arts shows.

“I was lucky to get into the BBC at the time BBC2 was opening up,” he said. “The atmosphere was much freer. You could do daft things without being hauled in front of three accountants. It was a much more experimental time.”

He made documentaries on Federico Fellini, Bauhaus and Muriel Spark and wrote reviews for The Listener, Sight and Sound film magazine and the London Review of Books.

He first worked with writer Dennis Potter on the 1980 television drama Cream in my Coffee, starring Peggy Ashcroft and Lionel Jeffries as a jaded married couple returning to the Eastbourne hotel where they spent a passionate weekend as young lovers. Ashcroft won a Bafta award for her performance.

Millar and Potter collaborated again five years later on Dreamchild, with Coral Browne as the elderly Alice Liddell reflecting on childhood and her relationship with Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll, who used her as the basis for Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The film also featured characters from the book, including the Mad Hatter and March Hare, which were realised in disturbing form by Jim Henson’s puppet company. Millar insisted they look like something from a nightmare.

“I don’t think there is any question but that [Carroll] was in love with Alice and in every possible sexual way, but without any physical contact,” said Millar.

“He turned all that passion and emotion into his books, and what she finally grasps is that, whatever the source of that love, it had been expressed in a beautiful manner.”

The film got caught up in industry politics and legal wrangling and received only a very limited release, but it was hailed by critics and featured in several lists of the best films of the year.

Suddenly Millar was inundated with offers from Hollywood, including the chance to direct the offbeat comedy Beetlejuice, but there was nothing that he felt sufficiently passionate about to prompt him to relocate across the Atlantic and then the offers dried up just as quickly as they had started.

“If you are hot one week, you get hit with lots of scripts,” he said. “Then you are finished. Perhaps I should have swallowed my pride and made something silly.”

Instead Millar directed a television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s satirical novel Scoop, with Denholm Elliott; a film of Roald Dahl’s Danny, The Champion of the World, with Jeremy Irons; A Murder of Quality, with a script from John le Carre and Elliott as his spy George Smiley; Pat and Margaret, with Victoria Wood and Julie Walters as sisters; and the instalment of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads that featured Wood as the wife of a murder suspect.

His return to his native land from his adopted home of Islington for a television adaptation of Iain Banks’s novel The Crow Road and then a big-screen version of Banks’s Complicity in 1999 marked a move also towards much darker material. “It’s the first time I’ve been able to deal with really, really hard material,” said Millar. He had to tone down some of the details from the novel.

Millar’s wife Sylvia died in 2012. He is survived by their five children and six grandchildren.

OBITUARIES

If you would like to submit an obituary (800-1000 words preferred, with jpeg image), or have a suggestion for a subject, contact gazette@scotsman.com

A MESSAGE FROM THE EDITOR

Thank you for reading this article. If you haven’t already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription. Click on this link for more details.

NEWS RELATED

Mulher acusa Elon Musk de assédio sexual durante voo: ‘Pênis ereto’

© Reprodução/Instagram @elonmusk Na madrugada desta sexta-feira, 20, veio à tona uma denúncia de assédio sexual contra Elon Musk, divulgada pelo site americano Business Insider. Segundo a publicação, a SpaceX, empresa de transporte espacial fundada pelo bilionário, teria pago US$ 250 mil (cerca de R$1,2 milhão) a uma comissária ...

View more: Mulher acusa Elon Musk de assédio sexual durante voo: ‘Pênis ereto’

RR vs CSK, IPL 2022: R Ashwin gets pumped up as Royals seal win against Super Kings

© Provided by Firstpost RR vs CSK, IPL 2022: R Ashwin gets pumped up as Royals seal win against Super Kings Rajasthan Royals’ R Ashwin showed some brilliant form with the bat once again after he remained unbeaten at 40 off 23 which included three maximums and two fours ...

View more: RR vs CSK, IPL 2022: R Ashwin gets pumped up as Royals seal win against Super Kings

Why Jamie Vardy is the man of the match in sad Wagatha Christie court battle between his wife Rebekah and Coleen Rooney

AFTER what seems like an eternity – though actually it’s about two and a half years – the Wagatha Christie saga is almost over. And there is only one Man Of The Match. The ludicrous dispute finally concluded in the High Court on Thursday, with a lengthy wait now ...

View more: Why Jamie Vardy is the man of the match in sad Wagatha Christie court battle between his wife Rebekah and Coleen Rooney

Dr Fauci warns society is in ‘decline’ because of spread of disinformation

© WPRI.com 5B0BF3D6-D165-4A41-A84C-CB526E6BB131.jpeg Dr Anthony Fauci has issued a stark warning that society is in “decline” because of the spread of disinformation and propaganda. The nation’s top infectious disease expert told graduates of Roger Williams University on Friday that the Covid-19 pandemic had laid bare the “normalisation of untruths” ...

View more: Dr Fauci warns society is in ‘decline’ because of spread of disinformation

Juventus, Allegri categorico su Chiellini

© Fornito da Sportal.it Allegri categorico L’allenatore della Juventus Massimiliano Allegri, ai microfoni di JTV, ha parlato alla vigilia della trasferta contro la Fiorentina, valida per l’ultima giornata di campionato. Il tecnico toscano ha subito voluto mettere in chiaro la titolarità di capitan Chiellini, all’ultima partita con il club ...

View more: Juventus, Allegri categorico su Chiellini

Argentina é convocada para encarar a Itália na Finalíssima

© Argentina celebrou a conquista da Copa América (FOTO: CARL DE SOUZA / AFP) Argentina celebrou a conquista da Copa América (FOTO: CARL DE SOUZA / AFP) O comandante Lionel Scaloni convocou a seleção da Argentina para a Finalíssima contra a Itália, que será disputada no próximo dia 1º ...

View more: Argentina é convocada para encarar a Itália na Finalíssima

Neto ironiza marca alcançada por Luan no Corinthians e usa bolo para ‘parabeniza’ meia: “Até na foto está cansado”

Durante o programa ‘Os Donos da Bola’ desta sexta-feira (20), o apresentador Neto ironizou a seca de Luan, que está há um ano sem fazer gols pelo Corinthians, de uma maneira inusitada. O comunicador levou ao programa um bolo para ‘parabenizar’ o meia-atacante pela marca. O bolo tem um apoio ...

View more: Neto ironiza marca alcançada por Luan no Corinthians e usa bolo para ‘parabeniza’ meia: “Até na foto está cansado”

Soy una persona emprendedora y estos son 4 consejos para agendar mis vacaciones al año

© Pexels. Las personas emprendedoras deciden cuántas vacaciones toman al año. Una de las partes más difíciles de trabajar por cuenta propia es descubrir cómo diseñar un horario donde las vacaciones del año estén estipuladas. Cuando comencé a laborar de manera independiente hace siete años, era muy estricta con ...

View more: Soy una persona emprendedora y estos son 4 consejos para agendar mis vacaciones al año

Europa vive su peor brote de viruela del mono con más de 100 casos

COVAX supera los 1,500 millones de vacunas anticovid distibuidas globalmente

Motorost gázolt halálra a vonat egy vasúti átjáróban

Keleigh Sperry poses nearly naked on a bed after stunning at Top Gun: Maverick premiere

Dhoni backs Choudhary, Pathirana to play bigger role next year

Tiozão? Ídolo do Corinthians, Cássio fala sobre jovens do elenco: 'Não vejo como meninos'

I have NEVER been cool – Howard thinks he is and Jason really was but not me, admits Take That’s Mark Owen

Coronation Street shock as dead Sinead Tinker makes a return to the cobbles

West Bengal: This 4-yr-old Creates Record by Reciting 223 Lines of Tagore Poems in 9 Minutes

Colin Firth/Rupert Everett: torna l'antica rivalità

‘Stranger Things 4’ Reveals First 8 Minutes of New Season, Episode Counts for Both Volumes

EBU: Länderna hjälpte varandra – ville sänka Jakobs

OTHER NEWS