Figgis was born in Carlisle, England and grew up in Africa. Figgis for several years had a relationship with the actress Saffron Burrows and cast her in several films. He is cousin to Irish filmmakers Jonathan Figgis and Jason Figgis who run the award-winning film production company October Eleven Pictures in Ireland. His sons Arlen Figgis and Louis Figgis have also followed their father in to the film industry, as editor and producer respectively.
Figgis's early interest was in music and he played keyboards for Bryan Ferry's first band. In 1983 he directed a theatre play, produced in Theatre Gerard-Philipe (Saint-Denis, Paris, France). This play performed with great success at Festival de Grenada and in Theater der Welt (Munich, Germany).
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