David Leland, Emmy-Winning ‘Band of Brothers’ and ‘Wish You Were Here’ Director, Dies at 82

The British writer-director of film, TV and theater helped launch the careers of Pierce Brosnan and Tim Roth

David Leland
David Leland (Courtesy of Casarotto Ramsay)

Emmy winning “Band of Brothers” director David Leland, who was also a prolific writer with over five decades in the industry, died Sunday at age 82.

The news came from his longtime agency Cassaroto Ramsay & Associates on Wednesday.

“Our beloved client writer/director, David Leland has passed away. We will miss his incredible talent and warm spirit so very much,” the agency said. “Our thoughts are with his family at this time.”

Leland, born in England at the height of World War II, trained as an actor and stage manager before establishing himself as a screenwriter and director. Among his most popular films are the 1983 cult classic “Made in Britain,” 1986’s Golden-Globe and Oscar-nominated “Mona Lisa” with Bob Hoskins and 1987’s “Wish You Were Here.”

Leland was renowned for writing two films about British suburban madam Cynthia Payne, 1987’s “Personal Services” and Cannes Film Festival hit “Wish You Were Here,” the later of which he also directed. “Wish You Were Here” won the BAFTA for best original screenplay. He also served as co-showrunner of the Showtime series “The Borgias,” starring Jeremy Irons.

“David was there at the very beginning of this crazy adventure,” Tim Roth, who starred in “Made in Britain,” told The Independent in response to his death. “He changed my life, and I love him for it. I’ll keep him with me always.”

He was also known for giving future James Bond Pierce Brosnan his first stage opportunity, in the British premiere of Tennessee Williams’ “The Red Devil Battery Sign,” a performance he also directed.

“David Leland holds a mighty place in my heart. I was just out of Drama Centre where David was also an alumni,” Brosnan said in a statement to media. “It was the thrill of my young lifetime to be cast as McCabe, working with David and Tennessee. David will forever be an essential part of my story and of all who knew and loved him.”

Leland’s most memorable work for U.S. audiences was likely his Emmy-winning effort on HBO’s 2001 Stephen Spielberg-Tom Hanks miniseries “Band of Brothers.” He shared the award for outstanding directing for the sixth episode of the WWII epic, which featured the famous moment of American Gen. Anthony McAuliffe rejecting a German demand to surrender by replying, “Nuts!”

He also directed several music videos, including Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in “I Won’t Back Down” and The Traveling Wilburys’ “She’s My Baby” and “Handle With Care.”

Leland worked as both writer and director on the Liam Neeson-led “Crossing the Line” (originally known as “The Big Man”) in 1990 and “Land Girls,” a 1998 feature starring Rachel Weisz.

“He genuinely loved and admired actors,” Neeson said. “We formed a close bond. I loved his mischievous sense of humour. You are always in my heart old friend. See you down the road.”

He also directed the stage musical “A Tribute to the Blues Brothers,” which played on London’s West End and then toured for 10 years across the U.K. and Australia.

In 2002, following the death of his close friend George Harrison, Leland directed the Grammy-winning documentary “Concert for George,” which featured a memorial concert for the late Beatle at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

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