The multi-talented London-born Bryan Forbes began his career as an actor, establishing himself as a competent supporting player on both stage and screen, but it was as a writer that he finally promoted himself through the ranks. A short story writer and journalist, he received his first screenwriting credit on Jose Ferrer's "The Cockleshell Heroes" (1955), although he previously had made uncredited contributions to "The Black Knight" (1954) and "An Alligator Named Daisy" (also 1955). With Richard Attenborough, Forbes formed the production company Beaver Films in 1959, and their initial offering was "The Angry Silence" (1960), for which Forbes won a British Film Academy Award for Best Screenplay. He then got his first opportunity to direct when he replaced Guy Green at the helm of Beaver Films' "Whistle Down the Wind" (1961) and delivered a poignant, believable story of childhood innocence, starring Haley Mills as one of three children who discover a fugitive (Alan Bates) and believe him to be Christ.
Forbes followed that success by directing two of his own screenplays, eliciting a fine performance from Leslie Caron facing pregnancy alone in "The L-Shaped Room" (1962) and orchestrating the remarkable, suspense-filled thriller "Seance on a Wet Afternoon" (1964). Though the latter film earned Kim Stanley a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her Method acting, Attenborough as the docile, defeated husband was by far the better of the two leads. "King Rat" (1965), starring George Segal, took Forbes stateside to direct his adaptation of the James Clavell novel and was praised for its many exciting scenes and thoughtful presentation of the effect of captivity on Allied prisoners during World War II. "The Whisperers" (1967) featured Dame Edith Evans' searing portrait of a dotty old lady struggling to stand tall in the face of a hurricane wind of ill-fortune, although the writer-director went for the tear ducts at every possible occasion. The melodrama as a whole may have fallen short of the desired mark, but Evans' riveting performance (one of her best on screen) elevated the film to a work of importance.
In 1969 Forbes accepted the post of production chief at London's EMI-Elstree Studios, which had just swallowed up the Associated British Picture Corporation. Though responsible for a number of notable films during his tenure (Richard Fuest's "And Soon the Darkness" and Leonard Jeffries' "The Railway Children" in 1970 and Joseph Losey's "The Go-Between" and the ballet film "The Tales of Beatrix Potter" in 1971), he encountered hostility for his humane but unwise refusal to downsize, resigning in March 1971 to concentrate on his writing. Since then, he has directed such popular films as "The Stepford Wives" (1974) and the ill-advised sequel "International Velvet" (1978), which he also wrote and produced. Forbes adapted his own best-selling novel "The Endless Game", directing it as a 1990 Showtime cable movie starring George Segal, and collaborated with William Boyd and William Goldman on the screenplay for Attenborough's biopic "Chaplin" (1992). Accused of having no dominant themes or personal style in his films, he has consistently proved himself an actor's director, coaxing fine performances from many of his leads, several of whom (i.e., Caron, Stanley, Evans, Attenborough) have won awards for their work.