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David Morrissey (born 21 June 1964) is an English actor and director. Morrissey grew up in the Kensingtonmarker and Knotty Ashmarker areas of Liverpoolmarker. He learned to act at the Everyman Youth Theatre, alongside Ian Hart and Mark and Stephen McGann. At the age of 18, he and Hart were cast in the television series One Summer (1983), which won them recognition throughout the country. After making One Summer, Morrissey attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art before acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatremarker.

Throughout the 1990s, he often portrayed policemen and soldiers. His breakthrough roles came when he played Bradley Headstone in Our Mutual Friend (1998), and Christopher Finzi in Hilary and Jackie (1998). More film parts followed, including roles in Some Voices (2000) and Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001), before he played the critically-acclaimed roles of Stephen Collins in State of Play (2003) and Gordon Brown in The Deal (2003). The former won him a nomination at the British Academy Television Awards and the latter a Best Actor award at the Royal Television Society Awards. His film roles have not always been acclaimed; his appearance as the male lead in Basic Instinct 2 (2006) was widely criticised, and The Reaping (2007) bombed at the box office. Since then, he has had leading roles in Cape Wrath (2007), Sense and Sensibility (2008), and Red Riding (2009).

Morrissey is also a director; he has directed Sweet Revenge (2001) and Passer By (2004) for the BBC. His feature debut, Don't Worry About Me, premiered at the 2009 London Film Festival and will be broadcast on BBC television in February 2010. He is married to the novelist Esther Freud and has three children.

Early life

David Morrissey was born to Joe and Joan Morrissey on 21 June 1964. Joe was a cobbler and Joan worked for the Littlewoods catalogue company. He was their fourth child; he has two brothers, Tony and Paul, and a sister, Karen. The family lived at 45 Seldon Street, in the Kensingtonmarker district of Liverpoolmarker. For National Museums Liverpool's Eight Hundred Lives project, Morrissey wrote that the house had been in his family since around the turn of the twentieth century; his grandmother had been married there and his mother born there. In 1971, the family moved to a larger and more modern house on the new estates at Knotty Ashmarker. Seldon Street is now demolished. He attended St Margaret Mary's School.

After seeing a broadcast of Kes (Ken Loach, 1969) on the television, he made it his ambition to become an actor. He was encouraged by a primary school teacher named Miss Keller; she cast him as the Scarecrow in a school production adapted from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz when he was 11 years old. Keller left the school soon after, leaving Morrissey "bereft". His secondary school, De La Salle Schoolmarker, had no drama classes and was the sort of place where the fear of bullying dissuaded pupils from participating in lessons. On the advice of one of his cousins, Morrissey joined the Everyman Theatremarker's youth theatre. For the first couple of weeks he was quite shy and did not join in the workshops. When he eventually participated, he appeared in the youth theatre's production of Fighting Chance, a play about the riots in Liverpool. He went to the theatre on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. By the age of 14, Morrissey was one of two youth theatre members who sat on the board of the Everyman Theatre. Ian Hart, with whom he had been friends since the age of five, was one of his contemporaries, as were Mark and Stephen McGann. Morrissey became friends with the McGann brothers, and was introduced to their brother Paul when the latter was on a break from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). When Morrissey was 15 years old, shortly after joining the Everyman, his father died after developing a blood disorder. He had been ill for some time and had eventually succumbed to a haemorrhage at the age of 54, dying at the family home.

Acting career

One Summer and RADA

In 1982, Morrissey auditioned for One Summer, a television series by Willy Russell for Yorkshire Television and Channel 4 about two Liverpool boys who run away to Walesmarker one summer. Russell had been attached to the Everyman for many years, and Morrissey had seen him while he was working behind the bar downstairs from the theatre, though the two had never been introduced. Morrissey went to at least eight auditions, and in one read for the part of Icky opposite Paul McGann, who was reading for Billy. McGann, five years older than Morrissey, believed that he was too old to be playing the part of 16-year-old Billy, and the part went to Morrissey. Spencer Leigh got the part of Icky and Ian Hart played the supporting role of Rabbit. Willy Russell fell out with the director, Gordon Flemyng, and Yorkshire Television over the casting of 18-year-old Morrissey and Leigh; he believed that the innocence of 16-year-olds running away for the summer was lost by casting older actors, though he did not have any problems personally with Morrissey and Leigh. After filming One Summer for five months, Morrissey went travelling in Kenyamarker with his cousins. When he returned to Britain, One Summer was being broadcast, and he dealt with the new experience of being recognised in public.

Morrissey had planned to study at RADA, but his colleagues at the Everyman encouraged him not to as he already had his Equity card. His One Summer co-star James Hazeldine convinced him otherwise, and he went to London for a year. He became homesick while there and did not enjoy the way RADA was turning him into a "bland actor". On a visit back to Liverpool he told Paul McGann's mother that he was considering leaving the college. Back in London, Paul McGann met with him and told him that he had been through the same homesickness phase when he first went to RADA. McGann's reassurance got Morrissey through his studies, and he graduated the college on 1 December 1985.

Theatre and early television work

After a year at RADA, Morrissey went back to Liverpool to do the play WCPC at the Liverpool Playhousemarker. He then did Le Cid and Twelfth Night with Cheek by Jowl, and spent two years with the Royal Shakespeare Company . With the RSC, he principally worked with director Deborah Warner. In 1988, he appeared as the Bastard in Warner's King John. He saw the role as a learning curve, as he had often wondered at RADA if he would ever have the opportunity to act in classical theatre. His performance has been described as "the most contentious characterisation of the production"; he received negative critical reaction from Daily Telegraph and Independent critics, but a positive opinion from the Financial Times. He also spent time with the Nationalmarker, playing the title role in Peer Gynt (Declan Donnellan, 1990). During this time, he lived on the housing estate in White Citymarker, where he and his flatmates were the frequent victims of burglars; his flat was broken into five times in one month.

At the end of the 1980s, Morrissey met director John Madden for the first time. Madden was looking for an actor who could portray an ordinary man in The Widowmaker (1990) who turns out to be a mass murderer. He knew Morrissey was right for the part in his first audition. The next year, Morrissey appeared as Theseus in an episode of The Storyteller directed by Madden ("Theseus and the Minotaur", 1991), and as Little John in Robin Hood (John Irvin, 1991). Robin Hood s cinema release clashed with that of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Kevin Reynolds, 1991). The latter, starring Kevin Costner in the title role, was a box office smash, and left the Irvin version forgotten. Morrissey was out of work in film and television for eight months after its release. Eventually, he was hired for a small role in Clubland (Laura Sims, 1991) as a policeman. He almost lost the role a week into rehearsals when his appendix burst. In order to keep the part, and a flat in Crouch Endmarker he had just bought, Morrissey performed while still in stitches.

At this early stage in his career, he tried to avoid being typecast as policemen and soldiers on television, though still ended up playing the former in Black and Blue, Framed, Between the Lines and Out of the Blue, and the latter playing Andy McNab in The One That Got Away (Paul Greengrass, 1996). For Framed, a New York Times critic called him "especially impressive in the difficult role of Larry, who must project a certain innocence even as his marriage disintegrates and he seems to be drawn further into Eddie's [the antagonist] vortex." Morrissey first met screenwriter Peter Bowker when he played Detective Sergeant Jim Llewyn in the second series of Out of the Blue. In 1994, he played customs officer Gerry Birch in the first series of The Knock, and Stephen Finney in the six-part ITV series Finney. In Finney, Morrissey assumed the role originated by Sting in Stormy Monday (1988). He was the first choice for the part and had to learn to play the double bass.

Leading roles

Throughout the rest of the 1990s, Morrissey began to assert himself as a leading actor; in 1996, he made his first appearance in a Tony Marchant drama, playing Michael Ride in Into the Fire. The following year he played the lead role of Shaun Southerns in Marchant's BBC series Holding On (Adrian Shergold, 1997). Southerns, a crooked tax inspector, was the first of many "men in turmoil" roles for Morrissey, and it earned him a nomination for the Royal Television Society Programme Award for Best Male Actor the next year. In 1998, he appeared in Our Mutual Friend alongside Paul McGann. A fan of the book, Morrissey asked director Julian Farino if he could play Eugene Wrayburn, but that part went to McGann. Farino had Morrissey in mind to play schoolmaster Bradley Headstone, a part Morrissey was reluctant to take until reading the script. He studied the role and decided that the character was "an unloved person who keeps on getting it wrong. [He] could see what a big issue class was for [Headstone], which eventually tips him over into madness." His performance was described by a Guardian writer as bringing "unprecedented depth to a character [...] who is more commonly portrayed as just another horrible Dickens git." In the same year, he played Christopher "Kiffer" Finzi in Hilary and Jackie. His roles in Our Mutual Friend and Hilary and Jackie have been seen as his breakthrough roles.

In 1999, he appeared in his last theatre role for nine years, as Pip and Theo in Three Days of Rain (Robin Lefevre, Donmar Warehouse). He continued to take in offers for stage roles, but turned them down because he did not want to be away from his family for long periods. Writing in Time Out, Jane Edwardes suggested that his role as Kiffer in Hilary and Jackie had inspired his casting as Pip in Three Days of Rain, as the characters have similarities. Morrissey was attracted to the role because the play "starts with a two-page speech, it's in American and [the cast and crew] only had two weeks to rehearse". He starred with Daniel Craig and Kelly Macdonald in Some Voices (Simon Cellan-Jones, 2000), playing Pete, the brother of schizophrenic Ray (Craig). Morrissey researched the character of Pete, a chef, by shadowing the head chef at the Terrace restaurant in Kensingtonmarker, London and chopping vegetables in the kitchen for two hours a day. An Independent critic called him "an instinctive actor who can use his whole body to convey an inner turbulence". For his next film role as Nazi Captain Weber in Captain Corelli's Mandolin (John Madden, 2001), Morrissey researched the Hitler Youth and read Gitta Sereney's biography of Albert Speer, Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth. Like for all of his roles, Morrissey created an extensive backstory for Weber to build up the character.

Morrissey returned to television in 2002, playing Franny Rothwell, a factory canteen worker who wants to adopt his dead sister's son, in an episode of Paul Abbott's Clocking Off. His performance was described as "fine, characteristically powerful" in The Independent. He also played tabloid journalist Dave Dewston in the four-part BBC serial Murder, and prison officer Mike in the part-improvised single drama Out of Control. He researched the latter part by shadowing prison officers in a young offenders' institution for a week. At the beginning of 2003, he played the role of Richie MacGregor in This Little Life, a drama about a mother (played by Kate Ashfield) who has to cope with her 16-week-premature baby. Though Morrissey's character, the husband and father, was not the focus of the film, he researched premature births by speaking to paediatricians at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampsteadmarker.

Critical success

Morrissey was cast in the leading role of Member of Parliament Stephen Collins for Paul Abbott's BBC serial State of Play (David Yates, 2003). He was originally sent the scripts for the first three episodes in 2002. When he asked for the last three, Abbott told him that they were not ready, but told him how Collins' story concludes. Unsure how to approach this role, he was advised by friend, director Paul Greengrass, to get Collins' job as an MP and the chairman of an Energy Select Committee right. Morrissey contacted producer Hilary Bevan Jones, who set up meetings with select committee members Kevin Barron and Fabian Hamilton. Both politicians educated Morrissey on how difficult it is to commute to London from a constituency outside the capital. He was also able to shadow Peter Mandelson around the House of Commons for a fortnight, asking him about his job as a cabinet minister, though not about his personal life. Mandelson told him about how politics can quickly "seduce" MPs who have worked hard to get into Parliament.
Morrissey's role as Gordon Brown in The Deal, for which he put on 2 stone and had his hair permed and dyed, won him acclaim.
That same year, he played Gordon Brown opposite Michael Sheen as Tony Blair in Peter Morgan's The Deal (Stephen Frears, 2003), a single drama about a pact made between the two politicians in 1994. Unlike his research for the fictional State of Play, Morrissey discovered that no politicians wanted to talk to him for this fact-based drama, so he turned to journalists Jon Snow and Simon Hoggart. He also travelled to Brown's hometown of Kirkcaldymarker, and immersed himself in numerous biographies of the man, including Ross Wilson's documentaries on New Labour in the six months leading up the 1997 election, and the six months after. Speaking to many of Brown's friends to gain insight into his "private persona", Morrissey discovered that Brown was funny, approachable and charming, something he did not see in his "public persona". To look like Brown, Morrissey had his hair dyed and permed, and put on 2 stone (13 kg) in six weeks. Stephen Frears, the director, originally wanted to cast a Scottish actor as Brown, but was talked into casting Morrissey by other production staff.

His acting in State of Play and The Deal won him considerable acclaim; he was nominated for the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor for his role as Collins but lost to his co-star Bill Nighy. His performance in The Deal was acclaimed by Charlie Whelan, Gordon Brown's former spin doctor, and Tim Allan, a deputy press secretary of Tony Blair. A BBC News Online critic praised Morrissey's grasp of Brown's physical tics in a review that panned the rest of the film. The following year, Morrissey won the RTS Programme Award for Best Male Actor, this time beating Nighy. The RTS jury wrote, "The strength of this performance brought to the screen, and to life, all of the characteristics and traits of the man he portrayed in a way that was both credible and convincing." Nighy said that the only time he had ever believed in an awards ceremony was when Morrissey won the RTS prize.

In 2004, eager to play a comic role, he reunited with Peter Bowker for the BBC One musical serial Blackpool, in which he plays Blackpoolmarker arcade owner Ripley Holden. Bowker remembered Morrissey from Out of the Blue and wanted to build off the actor's sense of humour and cast him against type. Before filming began, Morrissey spent four days in Blackpool talking to the locals and finding out how the arcades worked. His performance was described as "a powerful mixture of barely suppressed danger and vulnerable, boyish charm." A public poll on bbc.co.uk ranked him the second best actor of 2004. Morrissey reprised the role in 2006 in Viva Blackpool!, a one-off sequel.

Hollywood and period roles

The following years saw him cast in two high-profile feature films; while filming the Brian Jones biopic Stoned (Stephen Woolley, 2005), he got an audition for Dr Michael Glass, the male lead in Basic Instinct 2 (Michael Caton-Jones, 2006). He was flown out to Los Angelesmarker for a screen test with Sharon Stone. He and Stone bonded and the screen test was extended from one to two hours. Morrissey had enjoyed the first film and liked the script for the sequel. He read up on psychiatry (Glass's profession) and worked out in a gym for the nudity scenes. The film was a box office and critical bomb. The Washington Post criticised the film's focus on Morrissey's character, calling him "overmatched by Stone" and "a sad sack", and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer called him "a charisma-challenged non-entity". The following month, the same Washington Post critic wrote in The Los Angeles Times that because Morrissey was not a film star, the chemistry between him and Stone had been spoiled. The reviews depressed Morrissey, and he briefly considered giving up acting, but instead saw the role as learning curve.

Immediately after filming Basic Instinct 2, he began work on The Reaping (Stephen Hopkins, 2007) in Louisianamarker, playing science teacher Doug Blackwell opposite Hilary Swank. The role had been offered to him quite late in pre-production, and he flew to Baton Rougemarker the Monday after Basic Instinct 2 wrapped. He took the role because he was a fan of Swank, and Hopkins' film The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004). He liked the thriller aspect of the Reaping script above the horror aspect. After a week of filming, production had to be suspended when Hurricane Katrina hit the state. He found the filming schedule quite demanding, particularly three weeks of night filming, and a scene where is character is attacked by locusts. Most of the locusts were computer-generated, though some were real. The Reaping was released in 2007 and was another bomb. Despite the failures of both films, Morrissey was grateful that both opened him up to more film offers from Hollywood.

In March 2006, Morrissey travelled to New Zealandmarker to film a role in The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (Jay Russell, 2007). While there, he was offered the script for Cape Wrath, a Channel 4/Showtime/Ecosse Films series about a family being relocated on a witness protection scheme. He was signed on to the seven-part series in September 2006, playing Danny Brogan, the father of the family. Filming ran to the end of 2006. He relished working on the character's backstory: "It's written in such a way that there are so many different 'realities' at work—there's the Danny who existed pre-Meadowlands, and then there's the new Danny, the one he has invented. Before every scene there's a thousand questions that go through your head—and not just simple ones like 'where am I going, where have I been'—you're asking why you are reacting in this way to that particular person with this emotion. There is no scene where Danny just walks through a door and just says something. It's all about playing with my character's head as much as the audience." The following year, he appeared in the part of Colonel Brandon in Andrew Davies' Sense and Sensibility. When he first got the script in 2007, he was unsure if British television needed another Jane Austen adaptation, but took the role when he saw how Davies had given more screen time to the male characters than they get in the 1995 film adaptation. He also appeared as Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk in The Other Boleyn Girl (Justin Chadwick, 2008). He described Norfolk as "a sort of Lemmy-from-Motörhead version of a court enforcer", and researched the role by reading history books and literature from the 16th century.

Recent work (2008–present)

From November 2008 to January 2009, Morrissey returned to the theatre for the first time in nine years to appear in the Almeida Theatremarker's UK premiere of Neil LaBute's In a Dark Dark House. He played Terry, one of two brothers who had been abused as a child, opposite Steven Mackintosh. He took the role because he liked LaBute's previous play, The Mercy Seat (2002). After accepting the part, he researched the character by reading case studies of adults who were abused when they were children. He learned about how they coped with the shame of their abuse, and incorporated those feelings into his acting. He was also able to consult LaBute during rehearsals, but avoided asking him exactly how to play Terry. In a Daily Telegraph review that criticised the play as "surprisingly dull and workaday by LaBute's standards", Charles Spencer wrote that Morrissey's was the best performance "as the blue-collar older brother who reveals extraordinary depths of grief, damage and forgiveness that finally light up this dark, flawed play." A critic for the Hornsey and Crouch End Journal wrote, "David Morrissey turns in a mesmerising performance as Terry, one of the best I have seen, with such intensity you see him visibly shake it off as the lights rise at the end." Benedict Nightingale of The Times initially believed that Morrissey's acting was "a bit stiff, almost as if he was waiting for his cues rather than reacting instantaneously to their content" but found him more impressive as the play went on.

In December 2008, he appeared alongside his Blackpool co-star David Tennant in "The Next Doctor", the 2008 Christmas special of Doctor Who. He plays Jackson Lake, a man who believes he is the Doctor after his mind is affected by alien technology. Morrissey had been asked to appear in the series before but had to turn down the offers due to other commitments. He approached the character like any other dramatic part, and was influenced in his performance by previous Doctor actors William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Tom Baker. He had difficulty interacting with greenscreens, as it "was just a man holding a scaffolding pole with a tennis ball on the end", though he was able to react to the "cold, emotionless" faces of the Cybermen. Secrecy surrounded the exact details of Morrissey's role in the episode; until the day of broadcast his character was referred to only as "the other Doctor". This prompted speculation that Morrissey would be taking over the lead role after Tennant quit, and in October 2008 he was the bookmakers' favourite. He was pleased that the episode was a "decoy" for the truth that actor Matt Smith had actually been chosen for the part of the Eleventh Doctor. In September 2009, he told entertainment website Digital Spy that he would gladly return to the show if asked.

In March 2009, he appeared as corrupt police detective Maurice Jobson in Red Riding, the Channel 4 adaptation of David Peace's Red Riding Quartet. Morrissey already knew the directors of the films, enjoyed reading the script and had either worked with his co-stars on other projects, or wanted to work with them. He liked the flaws in the character of Jobson, and the character differs from typical vigilante police officers which are commonly portrayed on television. He did not read Peace's books. Morrissey said of Jobson, "I think he sets out to be a good cop, he tries to do his job well but he gets involved in some corruption and realises that being a 'bit' corrupt is like being a 'bit' pregnant. You either are or you're not."

Morrissey has several forthcoming roles; he has filmed the part of Dr Jan Falkowski in U Be Dead, a fact-based drama for ITV about a doctor who becomes the victim of stalking via text messaging; he plays Bobby Dykins in the upcoming John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy (Sam Taylor-Wood, 2009); he has a role as Roman soldier Bothos in Centurion (Neil Marshall, 2009); and he plays the role of Theunis Swanepoel in the BBC single drama Mrs Mandela. He is due to feature in the second series of BBC One's Five Days, playing Mal, and the Lionsgate crime drama feature Blitz, as Dunlop. Both Five Days and Blitz are schedule to be filmed in 2009 for 2010 release. He is also set to play to role of police detective Tom Thorne in a six-part television series for Sky1 that is adapted from Mark Billingham's novels Sleepyhead and Scaredy Cat. In November 2009, filming began on the Agatha Christie's Poirot adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, in which Morrissey plays Colonel John Arbuthnot.

Directing career

Morrissey has developed a directing and producing career alongside acting; while at the Everyman, he was "obsessed" with film and would shoot short films on Super 8. After his acting career took off, he got into directing because he was aware that, as an actor, he was coming into a project quite late into development and then leaving before post-production; he wanted to see a film through to the end, so took up professional directing. His first major project was Something for the Weekend (1996), which he wrote and produced. Initially called The Barber Shop, the title was changed to avoid a clash with another film. His directorial debut, the short A Secret Audience, centres on a meeting between Napoleon Bonaparte and Pope Pius VII. His second short, Bring Me Your Love, was based on the short story by Charles Bukowski, and starred Ian Hart as a journalist bringing his wife flowers in a mental hospital. It was screened in front of Some Voices. An Independent critic wrote that Bring Me Your Love "holds out great promise" for Morrissey. An Observer reviewer wrote that it was worth seeing but was "less impressive" than A Secret Audience. Bring Me Your Love was produced by Tubedale Films, which Morrissey set up with his brother Paul and wife Esther Freud.

In 2001, Morrissey directed Sweet Revenge, a two-part BBC television film starring Paul McGann. It won him a BAFTA nomination for Best New Director (Fiction). In 2004, Morrissey reunited with Tony Marchant to direct the two-part television film Passer By, about a man who witnesses an attack on a woman but does nothing to stop it. Morrissey was brought onto the project after reading the first draft of Marchant's script. The script went through five more drafts before being filmed over 30 days. Morrissey developed his directing techniques by watching the directors on films and television series that he acted in; he took the minor role of Tom Keylock in Stoned so that he could watch Stephen Woolley at work. He also took an interest in the computer-generated effects used in The Reaping. In 2007, Morrissey made his feature debut directing Don't Worry About Me (formerly The Pool), a film about a London boy falling in love with a Liverpool girl. The film was shot on a budget of £100,000 on location in Liverpool in September and October 2007 and has its world premiere at the 2009 London Film Festival. Sandra Hebron, the artistic director of the British Film Institute's festivals, wrote in the Festival's online programme, "While we might expect an actor-turned-director to have a knack for working with actors, what's perhaps less likely is the strong, almost painterly style that Morrissey brings to the film, rendering Liverpool beautiful and desolate by turns." The film has since been bought by the BBC for television broadcast in February 2010, and has a DVD release scheduled.

Morrissey has said that he prefers to keep acting and directing separate, and would not direct anything he is acting in. In 2009, Morrissey and Mark Billingham launched Sleepyhead, a production company that is adapting two of Billingham's Tom Thorne novels into a series that Morrissey will star in.

Personal life

Morrissey married his long-term partner, novelist Esther Freud, on 12 August 2006 in a ceremony on Southwold Piermarker. They met at the dinner party of a mutual friend, and have three children; Albie, Anna and Gene. His sisters-in-law are Bella Freud and Susie Boyt and his father-in-law is Lucian Freud.

Morrissey was brought up in a Catholic household, but had eschewed religion by his teens. Though a Labour Party member as of 2005, he was disappointed with the way New Labour turned out, and "despises" Tony Blair. In 2009, he told the Daily Telegraph's Mandrake diary that he would not play Gordon Brown again unless it was "a tragedy"; he said, "I do feel that Brown's been allowed to get away with murder. Given the state of the economy, the Opposition has not been putting him under the sort of pressure it should." On 20 July 2007, he was presented with an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores Universitymarker for his contributions to performing arts.

Filmography and awards

Acting

Year Award Category Title Result
1997 Royal Television Society Programme Award Best Male Actor Holding On Nominated
2003 Royal Television Society Programme Award Best Male Actor The Deal Won
British Academy Television Award Best Actor State of Play Nominated


Directing

Year Award Category Title Result
2001 British Academy Television Craft Award New Director (Fiction) Sweet Revenge Nominated

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