Filmmaker Alan Parker, a towering figure in the UK industry, died Friday morning following a lengthy illness, the British Film Institute has confirmed. He was 76.
Two-time Oscar nominee Parker was best known for directing classic films including Midnight Express, Mississippi Burning, Fame, Bugsy Malone and The Commitments, as well as big-budget Madonna movie Evita. Across a glittering career, his feature films combined to win 19 BAFTA awards, 10 Golden Globes and 10 Oscars.
Parker was a passionate supporter of the UK industry and a founding member of the Directors Guild of Great Britain. He was the founding Chairman of the UK Film Council in 2000, a position he held for five years, and prior to that he was Chairman of the BFI. He received a CBE in 1995 and a knighthood in 2002. He was also an Officier des Arts et Letters (France).
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Parker was born February 14, 1944. in Islington, London. He began his career in advertising as a copywriter but quickly graduated to writing and directing commercials. By the late 1960s he was one of the small but hugely influential group of British directors (including Ridley Scott, Hugh Hudson and Adrian Lyne) who revolutionized the look, quality and reputation of TV advertising by combining sophisticated, witty storytelling with cinema aesthetics for the first time. In 1980 he received the D&AD Gold President’s Award.
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In 1974, he moved into longform drama when he directed BBC film The Evacuees, written by Jack Rosenthal, which won the International Emmy Award and a BAFTA Award for direction; the first of Parker’s seven BAFTAs.
Parker wrote and directed his first feature film, Bugsy Malone, in 1975. It was a unique musical pastiche of Hollywood gangster films of the 1930s with a cast comprised entirely of children, including a knockout performance by Jodie Foster. The film received eight BAFTA film nominations and five awards.
Parker’s second film was the hugely successful and controversial Midnight Express (1977) which won two Oscars and six Academy Award nominations, including for Parker as Best Director. The film received six Golden Globe Awards and four BAFTA awards, including Best Screenplay for Parker.
This was followed in 1979 by Fame, a joyful and diverse celebration of youthful ambition in the arts, which won two Academy Awards, six nominations, four Golden Globe nominations and later was adapted into a long-running television series.
In 1981 Parker directed the powerful family drama Shoot the Moon, starring Diane Keaton and Albert Finney. That same year he also directed the seminal Pink Floyd – The Wall, the feature film adaptation of the best-selling rock albums of all time.
In 1984, Parker directed Birdy, based on the William Wharton novel and starring Nicolas Cage and Matthew Modine. that film won the Grand Prix Special du Jury at the 1985 Cannes Film Festival.
Parker’s next film, the occult thriller Angel Heart, made in 1986 and starring Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro and Lisa Bonet, opened in the U.S. amidst a storm of controversy caused by the “X” rating imposed on the film by the MPAA.
In 1988 Parker directed the civil rights drama Mississippi Burning, starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Director for Parker and winning for Best Cinematography. Parker also was awarded the D.W. Griffith Award for directing by the National Board of Review. The film was nominated for five BAFTA film awards, winning three. It also won the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.
In 1989 Parker wrote and directed Come See the Paradise, a moving family story about the treatment of forcibly interned Japanese-Americans during World War II, starring Dennis Quaid and Tamlyn Tomita. A year later, he would make The Commitments, the story of a young, working-class Irish soul band, which was awarded a Golden Globe Nomination for Best Picture and won Parker the Best Director prize at the Tokyo Film Festival, as well as BAFTA film awards for Editing, Screenplay, Director and Best Picture.
In 1993, Parker wrote and directed comedy-drama, The Road to Wellville, based on the novel by T. Coraghessan Boyle, and starring Anthony Hopkins, Bridget Fonda, Matthew Broderick, John Cusack and Dana Carvey.
In 1996, he garnered plenty of global headlines when he directed, wrote and produced Evita, based on the Broadway musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, and starring Madonna, Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Pryce. The much-discussed film won three Golden Globe Awards, including Best Picture.
In 1999 Parker wrote and directed Angela’s Ashes based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling memoir by Frank McCourt, starring Emily Watson and Robert Carlyle. Parker’s final film was The Life of David Gale, the 2003 thriller about the cruel politics of capital punishment in the US, starring Kate Winslet, Kevin Spacey and Laura Linney.
Parker also authored the best-selling novel written from his own screenplay of Bugsy Malone, published by HarperCollins. He also wrote two other published novels, Puddles in the Lane (1977) and The Sucker’s Kiss (2003), and was an adept cartoonist and painter.
In 1984 Parker was honored by the British Academy with the prestigious Michael Balcon Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Cinema. In 1998 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Directors Guild of Great Britain and the Lumiere Medal from the Royal Photographic Society. He was awarded the 2013 Bafta Fellowship.
Parker is survived by his wife Lisa Moran-Parker, his children Lucy, Alexander, Jake, Nathan and Henry, and seven grandchildren.
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