Known for making provocative, stylized, and tightly budgeted films about people living on society's social and/or sexual fringes, British director Stephen Frears is renowned as one of his country's most vibrant and recognizable filmmakers. Regarding his tendency to make films that branch into unfamiliar territory, Frears has said that he likes "making films about different cultures...I'm interested in things that I've never encountered before. I try to put myself in the audience's position." Born in Leicester on June 20, 1941, Frears studied law at Cambridge University before turning to the arts. He became involved with London's Royal Court Theatre, where he served as an assistant to director Lindsay Anderson and to actor Albert Finney. He started his career in the film industry as an assistant director to Karel Reisz, with whom he worked from 1966 until 1972.
In 1971, Frears made his directorial debut with Gumshoe. Starring Finney, it was a tribute to the hardboiled detective drama. Frears helmed a few made-for-television films, and in 1985, he had his breakthrough directing My Beautiful Laundrette. Written for the screen by Hanif Kureishi, the film used its central story of the relationship between a young Pakistani and a London street punk (a then unknown Daniel Day-Lewis) to explore issues encompassing homosexuality, racism, and intergenerational tensions. An edgy, offbeat tale, it earned great critical acclaim, a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination, and a New York Film Critics Circle award for Kureshi. Frears and Kureishi again collaborated on Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (1987), a film about the faltering relationship between a London couple. Like My Beautiful Laundrette, it looked at a number of issues that were particularly relevant to late-'80s British society; unlike Laundrette, it failed to make much of an impression on critics or audiences.