British Filmmaker Terence Davies Dead at 77

The screenwriter and director died after a short illness at home, a statement has announced

British screenwriter and film director Terence Davies has died. He was 77. 

Davies, who directed movies including Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988), The House of Mirth (2000) and The Deep Blue Sea (2011), died at his home following a brief illness, a statement posted on his social media announced on Saturday.

“It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of Terence Davies, who died peacefully at home after a short illness, today on 7th October 2023,” the statement read. 

Quotes were then shared in memory of the late filmmaker. “Pulvis et Umbra Sumus ‘We are but dust and shadows’ (Horace),” the message continued. “ ‘And if thou wilt, remember, and if thou wilt, forget.’ (Christina Rossetti) Terence Davies (1945 - 2023).”

Davies was born on Nov. 10, 1945, in Liverpool. He enrolled at the Coventry Drama School in England on a grant awarded by the Local Education Authority in 1972. During his attendance at the school, Davies sent his script titled Children to the British Film Institute (BFI) Production Board and he was awarded £8,500 to direct what became his first short film, according to an obituary posted by the BFI this weekend and shared on Davies' Instagram Story following the announcement of his death.

Released in 1976, Children is described in the BFI article as having offered an autobiographical look into Davies’ life growing up with guilt as a young gay man in Catholic school and dealing with his abusive, ill father and set the tone for the projects that later came for the BAFTA-nominated filmmaker. 

Davies combined his early autobiographical titles Madonna and Child (1980) and Death and Transfiguration (1983), with Children, to form a trilogy. He went on to make successful features Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988), and classic novel adaptations, The House of Mirth (2000), starring Laura Linney and Gillian Anderson — which earned him a BAFTA nomination for the Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film, though he missed out to Billy Elliot — and The Deep Blue Sea (2011), starring Tom Hiddleston.

The filmmaker received awards and recognition throughout his career. His last movies to receive awards attention were A Quiet Passion (2016), which told the story of poet Emily Dickinson (Cynthia Nixon). It was nominated for a variety of awards and won three, including Best Non-U.S. Release at the Online Film Critics Society Awards in 2017.

Davis' biopic Benediction (2021), about gay British poet and WWI veteran Siegfried Sassoon, was nominated for a British Independent Film Award in 2021.

The director spoke about the internal conflict he experienced growing up as a gay Catholic man, including in one of his final interviews in 2021.

"I didn’t talk myself out of it, I was very fervid. From 15 to 22, there were grave doubts,” Davies told the The Irish Times in 2021. “I’ve fought tooth and nail because I was taught: This is the devil’s work. And I prayed on one occasion until my knees bled. When I was becoming aware of being gay, it was a criminal offense in this country.”

The filmmaker added, “It has left a lot of damage. I’m still full of dos and don’ts.”

During the interview, the director was reflective about his own work, as he addressed comparisons he made between himself and other filmmakers and noted that he is "astounded" that there is an audience who goes to see his films.

“I look at someone else’s film, and I immediately feel that my films are inferior,” he told the outlet. “I’m conscious of their faults. I think: should have done that. No, that shot was a little too wide. I haven’t made vast amounts of money, the box office. I’m always astounded to get any audience. Because I’ve been to places where, you know, three people have turned up.”

In 2022, Davies told The Guardian that he had "lived alone since 1980" and spoke in depth about his life and work, including praising his own movie Benediction. "I'm very proud of it, I have to say. I think it’s the best thing I’ve done. Glorious from beginning to end," he told the outlet, prompting surprise from his manager, who noted it was "the first time Terence has said anything nice about his own films."

During the conversation, Davies discussed his "path" and described it as "a hard path to travel but I’ve got to be truthful to it."

"I think I’ve achieved what I set out to do,” he told The Guardian.

Representatives for Davies did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for additional comment.

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