Mike Hodges, director of Get Carter and Flash Gordon, dies aged 90

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Mike Hodges, the British director known for films such as Get Carter, Croupier, The Terminal Man and Flash Gordon, has died aged 90.

Mike Kaplan, a longtime friend and producer of Hodges’ latest feature, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, confirmed his death to the Guardian. Hodges died on Saturday at his home in Dorset. A cause of death was not given.

Hodges’ career ended with British gangster films: Get Carter (1971) and Pulp (1972), then Croupier (1998) and his last film I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead (2003). He was also known for his campy cult classic Flash Gordon.

Related: How We Made Flash Gordon – by Brian Blessed and Mike Hodges

Born in Bristol in 1932, Hodges first worked as a chartered accountant, then spent two years serving on a Royal Navy minesweeper around the fishing ports of northern England. It is there that he “testifies[ed] horrific poverty and deprivation that I had never known existed before,” an experience he later said informed Get Carter. “I entered the navy as a newly qualified chartered accountant and complacent young conservative,” he wrote in a letter to the Guardian, “and came out an angry, radical young man.”

Hodges entered show business as a teleprompter operator on British television, where he observed how television was made. He started writing screenplays and soon his talents led him to produce and direct short stories and documentary series. He wrote, directed and produced two thrillers for ITV Playhouse, titled Rumor and Suspect, in 1969 and 1970, which led to him being approached to adapt Ted Lewis’ novel Get Carter.

Related: Get Carter’s review – Michael Caine delivers a chilling crime classic

Set in a working class setting in the North of England, Michael Caine plays the titular London mobster who seeks his own form of justice after the death of his brother in Newcastle. Released in 1971, Get Carter was a huge hit and was quickly seen as England’s answer to The Godfather. The following year, Hodges and Caine reunited for their next film, Pulp, which saw Caine play an author who is asked to write the memoirs of an aging actor famous for playing gangsters (Mickey Rooney), and suspected of having links with real gangsters. When the actor is killed, Caine’s character goes in search of the murderer.

Hodges’ 1974 film The Terminal Man was a loose adaptation of a novel by Michael Crichton, in which a computer scientist goes on a rampage after electrodes are placed in his brain. The film did poorly in the United States due to distribution issues, but won Hodges the admiration of Stanley Kubrick, who called the film “tremendous”, and Terrence Malick, who wrote Hodges: ” I just saw The Terminal Man and I want you know what a beautiful and overwhelming picture it is…. Your pictures make me understand what a picture is is.” Malick’s letter was later used in an advertisement for the film.

Hodges co-wrote and was to direct the 1978 horror film Damien: Omen 2, but left the project after three weeks of filming. Hodges claimed a producer pulled out a loaded gun and put it on the table during a heated conversation about budgets. “I found it very scary, I have to admit. The whole movie was very threatening,” he told the Guardian in 2003. “I never should have made that movie in the first place. I I needed the money, and it was all a disaster. The gun was incidental.

Hodges then directed the space opera Flash Gordon in 1980, after director Nicolas Roeg left the project. “I had no idea what I was going to do when I took over,” he told the Guardian in 2020. “I think that’s part of the success of the film. It’s like a soufflé. We managed to put in all the right ingredients and it kind of grew, in a mysterious way.

Mike Hodges on the set of Flash Gordon with actor Sam Jones. Photography: Ronald Grant

It was during this time that Hodges “rejected materialism in any excessive form”, after going through a divorce which he said “stemmed in part from the struggle to maintain a lifestyle for the family”.

“I found myself doing all the things I swore I would never do,” he said in 2003. “The kids went to private school, and we had the country house and the apartment in town and two cars and God knows how many TVs in every room… once you’ve eliminated all the pressures and money worries, you immediately feel more free.And then you can start making the movies you want. really want to do.

Related: “I Was Angry” – Mike Hodges on His Lost Film Black Rainbow, Rescued After 31 Years

He directed the 1987 Mickey Rourke thriller A Prayer for the Dying, but later disowned it, saying he had no control over the editing. Her 1989 film Black Rainbow, starring Rosanna Arquette as a mysterious psychic who catches a reporter’s eye when she appears to predict a violent murder, didn’t make much of an impact when her distributors fell into financial difficulties. “By the time I did Black Rainbow, I had sort of gotten used to it,” Hodges told the Guardian in 2020. “I was pretty angry of course, but here we are. One of those things.

His 1998 film Croupier, starring Clive Owen as a dealer in a gambling den who is then trained to rob him, bombed in the UK. Hodges assumed his career was over and decided to retire. But the film was screened in the United States to rave reviews and its success there earned it a second UK release. “You think your movie goes down the toilet and then it gets stuck. And then it comes back,” he told the Guardian in 2003.

Hodges came out of semi-retirement to reunite with Owen on his last film in 2003, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, with Owen playing a criminal out for revenge after his younger brother (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is raped by a London mobster (Malcolm McDowell). The Guardian called the film “surprisingly dark; a no-frills existential gangster tale that, at its best, exudes the same reptilian menace [Hodges] shown on Get Carter. Certainly, it touches on similar themes: honor, revenge, male violence.

Hodges experienced a belated surge in appreciation during the last two decades of his life as his films which were plagued by distribution problems in the 1970s and 1980s were restored and re-released. “He’s a rare bird in British cinema, and I’m just glad he’s getting some recognition,” McDowell, a longtime friend of Hodges, told The Guardian in 2003. took 35 years, but that’s typical of England.We never realize what we have until it’s almost too late.

But Hodges had no intention of returning to acting and said in 2020 he was happy growing vegetables at his home in Dorset and writing black fiction; he published a novel, Watching The Wheels Come Off, in 2010, and a collection of short stories, titled Bait, Grist and Security, in 2018.

He is survived by his wife, Carol Laws, his sons Ben and Jake, and five grandchildren, Marlon, Honey, Orson, Michael and Gabriel.

• This article was updated on December 21, 2022 to correct an example of a misspelling of Clive Owen’s last name.

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