22 December 2008 Empire
Mockingbird Director Dies
Robert Mulligan dies aged 83
Robert Mulligan, the Oscar-nominated director of To Kill A Mockingbird, has died of heart disease at his home in Connecticut aged 83.
The Bronx-born director began his career in the fast-evolving world of live TV working at CBS in the so-called Golden Age of Television of the early 50s. In New York he worked alongside young TV directors like George Roy Hill, Sydney Pollack, Robert Altman and John Frankenheimer, before launching his filmmaking career with 1957 baseball drama Fear Strikes Out.
Mulligan went on to direct more than 20 films, but will be best remembered for his 1963 screen adaptation of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer-winning novel To Kill A Mockingbird. Coaxing arguably Gregory Peck’s finest performance from him as attorney Atticus Finch, Mulligan delivered an eloquent, humanist assault on the prejudices of the Deep South, proving to be the perfect choice to choice to bring Lee’s masterpiece to the screen.
Mulligan was by nature a diffident man but he stood up to Universal Pictures over the casting of To Kill A Mockingbird, insisting on Peck in preference to the studio’s first choice, Rock Hudson. His conviction was rewarded when Peck won the Best Actor Oscar and he himself was nominated for Best Director, losing out to David Lean for Lawrence Of Arabia.
The director’s final film was 1991's The Man in the Moon, also the film debut of a 15 year-old Reese Witherspoon.