Francis Megahy, British Writer, Director and Documentarian, Dies at 85

Francis Megahy (L) and Sir Rod Stewart - Getty - H 2020
David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

He filmed Rod Stewart in London during the swinging '60s and helmed projects featuring Pierce Brosnan and Ian McShane.

Francis Megahy, a writer, director and documentarian whose credits included the Pierce Brosnan film Taffin and such British series as Minder and the Ian McShane-starring Lovejoy, has died. He was 85.

Megahy died Friday in his Los Angeles home after a long battle with cancer, his cousin, Adrian Cohen, told The Hollywood Reporter

A raconteur and bon vivant, Megahy also was behind The Disappearance of Kevin Johnson (1996), a mockumentary about a Hollywood con man that starred Brosnan, James Coburn and Megahy's close friend Dudley Moore. It opened the inaugural Slamdance Film Festival, and after a screening in London, a reviewer for Sight & Sound wrote, "Orson Welles would have grunted his approval."

Megahy briefly managed Rod Stewart, and in 1964 he followed the young singer around swinging London for the short film Rod the Mod, which captured the birth of Britpop. At a retrospective BFI screening two years ago, Stewart credited Megahy with igniting a fabled career that he might not have had otherwise.

In addition to Taffin (1988), Megahy directed such features as The Great Riviera Bank Robbery (1979), starring McShane; Flashpoint Africa (1980), featuring Trevor Howard; and the martial arts film Red Sun Rising (1994), starring Don "The Dragon" Wilson.

He also helmed episodes of Dempsey & MakepeaceShine on Harvey Moon and Hammer House of Horror

With an intense interest in social issues, Megahy wrote and directed more than 40 documentaries, many of them for Granada Television. 

In the U.S., his doc The Last Round, about the framing of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, generated a petition with more than a million signatures calling for the boxer's release. Megahy also wrote and directed The Best Government Money Can Buy? (2009), which explored the often unsavory links between lobbyists and Congress.

His 1976 telefilm Death of an Informer dramatized the true story of a British government cover-up and IRA murder.

Born in Manchester, Megahy attended St. Paul's School in London, where his classmates included future writer-neurologist Oliver Sacks and soon-to-be Beyond the Fringe star and theatrical director Jonathan Miller.

After a year at the London School of Economics, he joined an advertising agency and quickly demonstrated an eye for talent.

Megahy's passion for Formula One — and for the impressive array of exotic sports cars he drove — inspired him to make a series of documentaries about the sport, which led to a friendship with champion driver Ayrton Senna. They worked together on 2014's Ayrton Senna Lifestyle in Brazil, an intimate video into the life of the great racer.

In 2003-04, Megahy served on the board of George Soros' Open Society Institute documentary fund in New York, which helped support documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival.

His memoir, Fear of the Dark: Exorcising the Ghosts of Racism Which Haunted My Family, was published in 2012. It was an account of his discovery that his father, whom he believed to be a Jewish American doctor who had settled in the U.K., was actually of African Caribbean lineage. Megahy spent his last years getting to know his previously unknown extended family.

Married and divorced twice, Megahy loved jazz, was an active member of The Queen's Club in London and rarely missed a tennis Grand Slam or a Formula One race.