- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

LONDON (AP) - British film producer Simon Channing Williams, who made a string of acclaimed movies with director Mike Leigh, has died, his production company said Tuesday. He was 63 and had battled cancer for several years.

Channing Williams died Saturday at his home in the county of Cornwall in southwest England, Thin Man Films said.

Born in 1945, Channing Williams began his career at the British Broadcasting Corp. He had a long association with Leigh, with whom he formed Thin Man Films in 1988. Together they produced 11 movies, including “Naked,” “Secrets and Lies,” “Topsy-Turvy,” “Vera Drake” and “Happy-Go-Lucky.”

The films won praise around the world. “Secrets and Lies,” a gritty but warm family drama, won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture.

Gilbert and Sullivan costume drama “Topsy-Turvy,” 1940s abortion tale “Vera Drake” and quirky London comedy “Happy-Go-Lucky” also received Oscar nominations.

Leigh told The Guardian newspaper that Williams was “a natural-born producer _ a great leader, always an enabler, a protector; never a dictator or an interferer.”

Channing Williams also worked with other directors, and in 2000 set up independent production company Potboiler Productions. It produced the Oscar-winning 2005 adaptation of John Le Carre’s “The Constant Gardner,” a tale of aid and diplomacy gone awry in modern-day Africa.

As a result of that film, Channing Williams helped set up the Constant Gardner Trust, which has funded sanitation and education projects among Kenya’s poor. In December 2007 he was awarded the Order of the Grand Warrior, one of Kenya’s top honors, for his work.

Channing Williams is survived by his wife Annie, five children and five grandchildren.

The family said a private funeral would be held later this week.

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