Mike Leigh graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London where he studied his love for moving pictures. His career took off when he directed Bleak Moments (1971) about a working class woman who cares for her special needs sister. Since then he has been nominated for the Academy Award five times for writing and has been nominated one time for directing the film Vera Drake (2004).
Leigh is well known by fans, and the like, for his unconventional methods for creating new material and for his direction on set. He enters every movie with a sense of adventure and without the use of script or knowledge of where the story is headed. Yet, the long-time director says that his actors hardly improvise on camera. His films are able to have a structured quality is formed after a series of improvisations sessions worked with the actors over a long period of time before filming begins.
His business sense also includes no using famous actors and he has the freedom to explore the structure of his films and create a modern world without any outside interference to his directions. Leigh has said once in an interview that he was surprised himself that he has been able to work this way for over seventeen films.
He is also known for centering his themes on the British working class experience from different points of view, and each topic touches the writer/director on a personal level before it reaches the audience. His award-winning drama, Secrets and Lies (1996), about a woman finding her birth mother, came from personally knowing friends who had adopted children. As he explored this theme, another idea for a movie was sparked.
Leigh’s film, Vera Drake, centers on a caring woman who helps women induce miscarriages, grew from his personal understanding of women who had illegal abortions. Other of Leigh’s notable work include a film about family relationships, All or Nothing (2002) and Naked (1993), Mike Thewlis breakthrough role which earned him several awards.