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Obituary: Antonia Bird

Obituary by Jack Foley

DIRECTOR Antonia Bird has died at the age of 54, her agent has confirmed.

The filmmaker was best known for films including 1994’s Priest, 1997’s Face and 1999’s Ravenous, all starring Trainspotting actor Robert Carlyle, as well as hit TV shows Spooks, Cracker and, more recently, BBC One’s The Village, starring John Simm.

A statement from her partner said that Bird, who had the rare anaplastic thyroid cancer, died peacefully in her sleep. She had an operation to remove a large tumour in April but “despite a determined fight, she had come to terms with the inevitable in the last few weeks and died peacefully in her sleep,” it said.

Bird began her career as a theatre director at London’s Royal Court before then moving into TV by directing episodes of EastEnders and Casualty in the mid-1980s.

She won 10 awards in her career, including two Bafta TV awards for Best Single Drama (for Safe in 1994 and Care in 2001). The latter dealt with sexual abuse in a children’s home and also won her the Bafta Cymru award the same year.

Bird also picked up the award for best film at the Berlin International Film Festival and the prestigious People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival for Priest. That film confronted a Catholic priest’s crisis of faith and also starred Linus Roache.

She dabbled in Hollywood with Mad Love, which starred Drew Barrymore and Chris O’Donnell as a teenage couple on the run.

But her passion lay in England and she stated in interviews that she preferred working with British actors because, in her opinion, they arrived on-set better prepared.

Tributes have been paid by various colleagues and collaborators. Leading them, Robert Carlyle posted on Twitter: “Such a sad day today. RIP Antonia Bird. Farewell my beautiful friend.”

John Simm, who worked with Bird on The Village, wrote: “Such terribly sad news yesterday re the untimely death of the wonderful Antonia Bird. A brilliant, inspiring, beautiful Soul. RIP Antonia.”

And Irvine Welsh, the Trainspotting writer with whom Bird set up the production company Four Way Pictures, wrote that he had lost a “great pal”, adding that she “made amazing films”.

Their business partner Mark Cousins added: “So touching to see all the tributes to director Antonia Bird. The thing now is to make her work available and get it seen.”