About Michael Winner
Film Director, Producer & Writer
MICHAEL WINNER, famous for creating the DEATH WISH films set in the slums of New York and Los Angeles, lived in a historic 46-roomed Victorian mansion which he has left to the nation as a museum. He was an avid collector of and expert in fine paintings and furniture. Michael Winner went up to Cambridge University aged 17, the youngest student there, and graduated at 20 with an Honours Degree in Law and Economics.
Winner became famous as a Director of acerbic comedies – THE JOKERS (nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Comedy of the Year), I’LL NEVER FORGET WHAT’S'ISNAME, THE SYSTEM (US THE GIRL GETTERS) much praised for their wry look at British life. He moved into action films with a western, LAWMAN, in the early 70′s. His series of Charles Bronson hits tend to erase the variety of his films. THE NIGHTCOMERS with Marlon Brando was a Venice and San Francisco Festival Jury Entry. A CHORUS OF DISAPPROVAL won first prize at the Cologne Film Festival. Michael Winner’s other films include THE JOKERS starring Michael Crawford and Oliver Reed, HANNIBAL BROOKS starring Oliver Reed and Michael J. Pollard, CHATO’S LAND starring Charles Bronson and Jack Palance, THE STONE KILLER starring Charles Bronson and Martin Balsam, the horror film THE SENTINEL starring Ava Gardner and a large all-star cast, SCORPIO starring Burt Lancaster, Paul Scofield and Alain Delon and many other major movies.
He directed stars including Marlon Brando, Sophia Loren, Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Irons, Robert Duvall, Faye Dunaway, James Stewart, Charles Bronson, Robert Mitchum, John Cleese, Burt Lancaster, Michael Caine, Roger Moore, Lauren Bacall, Peter Ustinov, John Gielgud, Joan Collins, Olympia Dukakis, Paul Scofield, Jack Palance, Michael Crawford, Ryan O’Neal, Orson Welles, Ava Gardner and Jeff Goldblum.
He produced and directed over 30 films throughout the world from London to Los Angeles, France, Australia, Japan, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Spain, Mexico and the Caribbean.
In March 2011 the American Cinematheque mounted a 3 day tribute to Michael Winner showing 6 of his films with Mr Winner appearing each day.
He presented theatre including Paul Scofield in The Tempest and the musical revue A Day In Hollywood A Night In The Ukraine which went on to win 6 Tony Awards on Broadway. A regular for fifteen years on the BBC’s Any Questions, he appeared on TV programmes ranging from the BBC’s Question Time to Reeves and Mortimer. He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 2001. He presented the hit series “Michael Winner’s True Crimes” on ITV. He was an honorary member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and the Directors Guild of Great Britain.
In 1984 Michael Winner founded the charity the Police Memorial Trust to pay tribute to officers slain on duty by placing memorials where they fell. Mrs Thatcher unveiled the first one, to WPC Yvonne Fletcher. Every successive Prime Minister has unveiled later memorials. His National Police Memorial in The Mall, designed by Lord Norman Foster, was unveiled by Her Majesty Queen in April 2005. It is the first memorial in over 100 years to be erected in the Mall.
For 15 years he wrote a weekly column about food and restaurants in the Sunday Times. He was Britain’s best known food writer. He also wrote for 9½ years a full page on politics and life in the News of The World. He wrote regularly in the Daily Mail.
He lectured frequently, including at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles and Washington, Britain’s National Film Theatre, the Academy of Film and Television Arts and Oxford and Cambridge Universities. In 1992 he gave the third Celebrity Lecture presented by the Edinburgh Film Festival, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and The Scotsman newspaper. His views on directing were published worldwide and featured in the American Film Institute’s standard book on the subject “Directing The Film.”
A hardcover book of his highly successful Sunday Times columns “Winner’s Dinners” was published by Robson Books in October 1999. It was a bestseller. An updated and “increased” paperback version was published in November 2000. A third hotel and restaurant volume “The Winner Guide to Whining And Dining” was published in September 2002. A new guide (Winner’s Dinners) was published in October 2009 and a follow-up “UNBELIEVABLE! My Life in Restaurants and Other Places” was published in October 2010. In September 2004 Michael’s autobiography “Winner Takes All” was a bestseller. “This book is a gem…one of the books of the year” – Lloyd Evans, The Spectator. “A rollicking, witty autobiography, always funny and illuminating” – Christopher Silvester, Sunday Times. “Uproariously enjoyable” – Matthew Sweet, Independent on Sunday. Michael Winner’s Fat Pig Diet was published by JR Books in October 2007. It was released in paperback in January 2009. The Daily Mail described it as “The most outrageous, hilarious and oddly inspiring diet guide you’ll ever read.” In The Independent Tessa Williams said “It’s a diet book like no other. Highly entertaining. Beats any regular diet book.” Michael Parkinson said “The book’s interesting, it’s as interesting as a diary as it is as a diet. A fascinating insight into Michael Winner’s extraordinary life.”
Writing about “Unbelievable” Roger Lewis in the Mail on Sunday said, “A rollicking and unbridled book. I don’t know anybody more attuned to the sheer absurdity of life. Belligerent and opinionated, Winner is also valuable and rare.” Dominic Lawson in the Independent wrote, “Winner is skilled at entertaining starstruck readers with his stories. It’s a kind of eternal teenager’s delight in Winner’s excitement at being in close proximity to Hollywood stars.” Giles Coren, food critic of The Times, wrote, “I revere Winner as a God or a sainted thing.” In the New York Times, Warren St John wrote, “The dawn of the age of the blistering restaurant review in London came when Michael Winner was invited to write about his dining experiences for the Sunday Times.” The Mail described the book as “A deliciously indiscreet memoir.”
As an actor Winner played the pivotal role of a devious, titled businessman trying to get the concession to privatise prisons in Danny Boyle’s BBC film of G F Newman’s For The Greater Good. He acted in Steven Berkoff’s film Decadence as well as in many other movies and TV sketches. He was known for his quotes including “A team effort is a lot of people doing what I say.” He starred in his own hit ITV series Michael Winner’s True Crimes. In 2010 a new peak-time ITV series “Michael Winner’s Dining Stars” was broadcast.
Sir Michael Caine said of Michael Winner on This Is Your Life: “I am here to tell everybody, Michael, you are a complete and utter fraud. You come on like this bombastic, ill-tempered monster. It’s not the side of you I see. I see a man who has a tremendous artistic eye. You have an incredible legal brain. Before I even go to my own lawyer I talk to you first. You’re extremely funny, very sensitive, very kind and very generous. I hope everyone believes me when I say that you are a kind and wonderful person. And I’m not kidding.”