Alan Parker, Director Of ‘Fame,’ ‘Midnight Express’ And ‘Mississippi Burning,’ Dies At 76 – Alan Parker, the British director whose features landed 19 BAFTAs, 10 Golden Globes and 10 Oscars, also was behind “Bugsy Malone, “The Commitments,” “Angel Heart,” “Evita” and “Angela’s Ashes,” has died. He was 76.
Alan Parker, Director Of ‘Fame,’ ‘Midnight Express’ And ‘Mississippi Burning,’ Dies At 76 | Cause Of Death:
Alan Parker, the versatile British writer-director and two-time Oscar nominee who came from the world of commercials to make such features as Fame, The Commitments, Midnight Express and Mississippi Burning, died Friday in London.
In a statement, the family said Alan Parker died Friday in London after a long illness.
Parker was born in London in in 1944 and, like many other aspiring British directors including Ridley Scott, began his career in advertising.
He moved into television with critically acclaimed 1974 drama “The Evacuees,” which won an international Emmy Award.
Alan Parker’s first feature film, 1976’s “Bugsy Malone,” made a considerable splash for an audacious concept that worked only because everyone kept a straight face.
The film was a Depression-era gangster musical cast entirely with children, the oldest perhaps 15. “Bugsy Malone” was the first of five Parker films nominated for Cannes’ Palme d’Or.
Parker followed that with “Midnight Express,” the harrowing true-life story of a man, Billy Hayes (played by Brad Davis), sent to a nightmarish Turkish prison for smuggling hash.
“Midnight Express” which competed in Cannes, won the adapted screen Oscar for Oliver Stone and best original score for Giorgio Moroder, and it was nominated for best picture, director, supporting actor (John Hurt) and film editing.
Alan Parker’s filmography spanned genres from thrillers and comedies to musicals and wartime dramas.
Next, and very far indeed from “Midnight Express,” was the 1980 film musical “Fame,” the story of the students and teachers at New York’s High School of Performing Arts.
Parker next directed the 1982 Bo Goldman-scripted film “Shoot the Moon,” about the disintegrating marriage of a couple played by Albert Finney and Diane Keaton. Alan Parker directed “Pink Floyd — the Wall” a surreal rock opera.
Alan Parker, British Director Of ‘Bugsy Malone,’ ‘Evita,’ Dead:
Alan Parker also directed Birdy (1984), a Cannes Jury Prize winner centered on Vietnam veterans played by Matthew Modine and Nicolas Cage; Come See the Paradise (1990), a wartime romance starring Dennis Quaid and Tamlyn Tomita; the sanitarium-set comedy Road to Wellville, starring Anthony Hopkins and Matthew Broderick; the Irish drama Angela’s Ashes (1999), based on the Frank McCourt autobiography; and, his final film, The Life of David Gale (2003), a feature about capital punishment that starred Kevin Spacey.
He also was not reluctant to push the aesthetic envelope. “Angel Heart,” his 1987 New Orleans-set horror thriller that starred Mickey Rourke, Lisa Bonet and Robert De Niro, opened amid controversy when it was initially rated X by the MPAA.
Parker followed “Angel Heart” with “Mississippi Burning,” about two FBI agents, played by Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe, sent during the 1960s to investigate the murder of civil rights workers to a Southern town where they must somehow pierce the conspiracy of silence. Hackman’s character (a former sheriff) is a pragmatist, while Dafoe’s the idealist.
The director made another issues picture in 1990’s “Come See the Paradise,” which he also wrote.
his next film, “The Commitments,” based on the novel by Irishman Roddy Doyle.
Based on Frank McCourt’s bestselling book recounting his monumentally tragic childhood in Ireland, Parker’s 1999 adaptation of “Angela’s Ashes” was Oscar-nominated for John Williams’ score, but critics felt it fell short as an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winner.
Alan Parker’s last film, “The Live of David Gale,” starring Kevin Spacey, was a thriller that toyed with addressing the issue of capital punishment.
In 1976, Parker won the first of his six career BAFTA honors for directing The Evacuees, a BBC film about two young boys being evacuated during the Blitz.
He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 1995 and knighted in 2002.
“I started with Bugsy Malone, which was like a ridiculous pragmatic exercise to try to get any kind of film done, and then I did Midnight Express,” Alan Parker said in a 2017 British Film Institute interview. “And they were such opposite kinds of films that it sort of set me in a pattern of doing different things each time.”
Fellow director David Puttnam said Alan Parker “was my oldest and closest friend – I was always in awe of his talent. My life, and those of many others who loved and respected him will never be the same again.”
Parker was twice married, the first time to Annie Inglis from 1966 until their divorce in 1992.
Alan Parker is survived by second wife Lisa Moran, who had producing credits on several of Parker’s films; and four children by Inglis, including sons Alexander Parker and Jake Parker, an orchestrator and composer.