Gilbert, who directed You Only Live Twice (1967), The Spy Who Loved Me (1978) and Moonraker (1979), was born in 1920 in Hackney in London and directed more than 40 films in his career. Starting out as a child actor, in 1933’s Dick Turpin, he served as an assistant on Alfred Hitchcock’s 1939 thriller Jamaica Inn.
After directing a number of war novel adaptations, Gilbert directed Michael Caine’s Alfie (1966), which was was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture and won him a Golden Globe Award. It also won the Jury Special Prixe at Cannes. He initially turned down directing You Only Live Twice the following year but accepted after being persuaded by producer Albert R. Broccoli. He went on to direct the two other Bond titles a decade-plus later before directing a number of smaller scale British dramas.
These included Best Film BAFTA winner Educating Rita (1983) and BAFTA-nominated Shirley Valentine (1989). He was handed a CBE for his achievements in film in 1997 and in 2001 was made a Fellow of the British Film Institute, the highest accolade in British film. His last film was 2002 comedy Before You Go, which starred Julie Walters.
Gilbert, a two-time DGA Award nominee. was remembered by that group along with a number of celebrities and people who worked with him.
“The DGA mourns the passing of Lewis Gilbert whose more than 70-year legacy as a film director has served as an inspiration to so many,” the DGA said in a statement. “Not limiting himself to any one genre, Gilbert found strength in tackling a diverse slate of films; from war dramas like Sink the Bismarck! to light comedies like Alfie – both earning him DGA Award nominations for Outstanding Directing in Feature Film. But his most enduring impact may be his three iconic James Bond films in the 1960s and 70s: You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, where his wit and sly humor elevated the genre. He will be deeply missed.”
Ant-Man director Peyton Reed said he had a “tiny homage” to Moonraker in Ant-Man and The Wasp, while British presenter David Walliams thanked him for “all the joy you brought me and millions of others”. “I met Lewis Gilbert in a restaurant in London. He was having lunch with Sir Roger Moore. I told Lewis how much I loved the Bond films he had directed & he asked me ‘how did you like my friend Jaws?’ as if I was 10 years old even though I was 40! I loved feeling 10 again though,” he added.