Chairman of BAFTA 1964-1965
The son of distinguished barrister, judge, Liberal politician and the first Baron Birkett, Michael Birkett was educated at Stowe School and Trinity College Cambridge before entering the film business in 1953 as an assistant director at Ealing Studios. There he worked on such films as The Ladykillers (1955), Davy (1958) and Dunkirk (1958).
He had soon proved himself a dependable first assistant director, and continued to work in this role on films including The Mark (1961), The Innocents (1961) and Billy Budd (1962). As an associate producer he helped bring films such as Some People (1962) and Modesty Blaise (1965) to the screen, occasionally dabbling in directing – with The Soldier’s Tale (1964) which he also adapted from CF Ramuz’s story, and various documentary shorts.
But it was as a producer that he made his biggest mark on the industry, particularly by bringing garlanded stage productions to a wider audience on the big screen. These film versions include The Caretaker (1963), Marat/Sade (1967), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1968) and King Lear (1971).
He had, by this time, already served a year as chairman of the Academy, and went on to serve for 12 years as vice president of the British Board of Film Classification from 1985. Other significant arts posts he held include deputy director of the National Theatre between 1975 and 1977, and subsequently a consultant to the National Theatre on films, tv and sponsorship.
He was chairman of the Children’s Film and Television Foundation between 1981 and 1999, and served on the advisory committee to the National Sound Archive for 10 years from 1993. He was on the music advisory committee of the British Council between 1994 and 2001 and between 1990 and 2001 also served as chairman of the Governors at the BRIT school for the performing arts.