Peter Yates, the Oscar-nominated English filmmaker who gave us one of the greatest car chases in cinema history and the defining sports drama of the '70s, died Sunday in London at the age of 82 following a long illness.
We thought we'd look back at his life and his five best films...
After breaking into the British theater as an actor, director and stage manager, Yates began helming TV episodes of The Saint before making his feature debut with the 1963 musical Summer Holiday. During a five-decade career that followed, he worked on everything from B-movies (see 1977's The Deep and 1983's Krull) to Oscar-worthy prestige pictures (1979's Breaking Away and 1983's The Dresser). Along the way he worked with a who's-who of Hollywood's biggest stars, including Dustin Hoffman, Mia Farrow, Nick Nolte, Steve McQueen, Sigourney Weaver, Dennis Quaid, Cher and Albert Finney.
Here are our picks for his greatest hits:
1. Bullitt. probably Yates' most famous flick. In this 1968 thriller, McQueen played Lt. Frank Bullitt, a San Francisco detective who, while probing the death of a mob witness, leads two hitmen and moviegoers on the most riveting car chase ever put to celluloid. The movie influenced a generation of action movies, including the Dirty Harry franchise and The French Connection, and earned an Academy Award for Best Film Editing.
2. The Hot Rock. Yates directed Robert Redford, George Segal and Zero Mostel in this 1972 comic crime caper written by acclaimed screenwriter William Goldman that follows professional thief (Redford) who gets a gang together to steal a diamond from a Brooklyn museum.
3. Breaking Away. The 1979 cycling drama starring Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern and Jackie Earle Haley is considered one of most inspiring films of the sports genre, focusing on four working-class friends who compete against an Italian cycling team in an annual race in Indiana. Nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, Breaking Away won for Best Original Screenplay.
4. The Dresser. The assistant to an aging actor does his best to help him through a performance of King Lear. Starring Tom Courtenay and Finney, respectively, this 1983 Best Picture nominee was another high point for Yates, who earned his second Academy Award nom for directing.
5. Suspect. The 1987 legal thriller reunited Yates with Quaid in a tale about a public defender (Cher) assigned to represent a disabled, homeless Vietnam vet (Liam Neeson) accused of murder of a federal employee. Quaid eventually teams up with Cher to hunt down the real killer, uncovering a network of corruption.