Bryan Forbes, "Stepford Wives" director, dies at 86

Bryan Forbes is seen here after he was honored with a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to the Arts and the National Youth Theatre, from Britain's Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, London on Nov. 24, 2004.

British film director Bryan Forbes, whose work includes the original 1970s horror classic "The Stepford Wives," has died at age 86 after a long illness, a family spokesman said Wednesday.

Matthew D'Ancona said Forbes died surrounded by his family at his home in Surrey.

Forbes was born John Theobald Clarke in 1926 in London. He began his film career as an actor, playing a number of supporting roles in British films in the 1940s and 1950s, but he soon found more success in screenwriting, and later directing.

He made his debut as director in "Whistle Down the Wind," the 1961 movie about children who come across an escaped convict and mistake him for Jesus.

Forbes went on to make films such as "King Rat," a tale of survival in a prisoner-of-war camp, and "The Stepford Wives," a thriller about sinisterly perfect suburban housewives.

He was screenwriter for "Chaplin," the 1992 biopic of Charlie Chaplin starring Robert Downey Jr., and also wrote several novels. His latest book, "The Soldier's Story," was published last year.

Forbes was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2004 for services to the arts.

He is survived by his wife, the actress Nanette Newman, and two daughters, TV reporter Emma Forbes and journalist Sarah Standing.

Some stars in Hollywood reacted to the news, including Joan Collins, who tweeted: "Very sad to hear that Bryan Forbes died. He was an iconic figure of the British film industry. My heart goes out to Nanette, Sarah and Emma."