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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 December, 2003, 00:14 GMT
Stephen Daldry's hour arrives
Stephen Daldry
Daldry was groomed for film success
Theatre and film director Stephen Daldry has been made a CBE in the New Year Honours.

Born in Dorset in 1960, Stephen Daldry won an RAF scholarship to Sheffield University to study English and went on to work at the city's Crucible theatre until 1988.

He first grabbed public attention as a theatre director at the Gate in in Notting Hill, west London, which he ran between 1990 and 1992.

Radical politics

The Gate was a small fringe theatre when he started working there and he converted it to a showcase for international tastes and talents.

When he was made artistic director at the Royal Court at the age of 32, it was nothing short of phenomenal, particularly for a man with a history of involvement in radical politics.

Daldry joined the Socialist Workers Party at Sheffield University in the 1980s, something he has said gave him a "political education."

These political leanings are evident in his most famous productions.

Jamie Bell and Stephen Daldry
Jamie Bell (left) shot to fame with his role as Elliot

His revival of JB Priestley's An Inspector Calls - originally for the National Theatre, but now a West End and touring hit - was seen as an assault on Thatcher's Britain.

Though written in 1945, it is a play about agitation and propaganda and the production emphasised the notion that there is and needs to be a caring society.

His film directorial debut Billy Elliot was no exception, set as it was against the backdrop of the 1984 miners' strike, which Daldry said was pivotal to the film.

Billy Elliot's means of self-expression is to choose ballet over boxing to the fury of his father, a striking miner.

Criticism

Daldry's own father died of cancer when he was 14 and he has said that his emotions about that time were something he worked into Billy Elliot who has lost his mother.

The emotional content of the film was criticised by some, notably by Time magazine's film critic who called it "emotional pornography", but audiences clearly did not agree.

Jamie Bell in Billy Elliot
Billy Elliot was a hit in 2000

Daldry made the smooth and successful transition from theatre to movies with Billy Elliot in 2000 - the film picked up three Oscar nominations.

Daldry was suddenly catapulted to international fame and a place at the Oscar ceremony.

Bold style

He was fortunate in that he was groomed for film by Working Title, the UK production company which created Notting Hill, Elizabeth and Four Weddings and a Funeral.

It gave Daldry the script of the short film Eight as his first screen venture in 1998 and Billy Elliot followed two years later.

It won three Baftas including best actor for its star Jamie Bell, best supporting actress for Julie Walters and best British film.

Daldry handled his new found fame with panache, but then he has always been known for his bold theatrical style.

His second film, The Hours, was also a huge success.

Nicole Kidman won the Oscar and Golden Globe best actress awards in 2003 for her role in the film.

It also won the Golden Globe for best film.

The film centres on three women from different eras who are bound by Virginia Woolf's novel Mrs Dalloway.

Hollywood stars

The film was made for the relatively modest sum of $22m (13.8m), and Daldry was the last name to be brought on board.

Even so, producer Scott Rudin, who made The Truman Show and Iris, invited Daldry to direct before Billy Elliot, had even been released.

Daldry told BBC News Online he could not pass up the chance to work with Kidman, Streep and Moore.

"They never acted like Hollywood stars to me. They always came in incredibly knowledgeable and prepared," he said.

He is reported to be currently working on a film adaptation of Michael Chabon's novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.




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