UPDATED with latest reactions: Alan Parker, who died today at 76, was remembered Friday by colleagues and friends, with Andrew Lloyd Webber calling his Evita collaborator “one of the few directors to truly understand musicals on screen” and Matthew Modine, who starred in Parker’s 1984 drama Birdy, praising the director as a “great artist” who “transformed” the actor’s life.
And Rocketman director Dexter Fletcher explained the pivotal role Parker played in his life by casting the then-nine-year-old Fletcher as “Babyface” in 1975’s Bugsy Malone.
In a statement, Fletcher said:
Sir Alan inadvertently changed my life at the age of 9 when he stuck me at the end of a line of 30 kids, passing a baseball bat, all whilst saying ‘Give this to Babyface’. He told me to say something different on every take (In the one he used, I said ‘I am Babyface!’) He generously made each moment unique and fun and it’s something I endeavour do as a director, with child and adult actors, to this day. I’m extremely proud that people still recognise me from Bugsy Malone 45 years later. It’s a testament to the pure joy of Sir Alan’s first film.
Sir Alan was a maverick from the outset and his films and his vision were never compromised. As anyone who worked closely with him will tell you. He was one of the great, diverse, eclectic and original British film makes of his generation and my personal directing hero. His support, friendship and encouragement over the years helped the BFI, me and many others achieve wonderful things. The world was a richer place with him in. I urge everyone to watch all his films, in chronological order. Because not only are they all so different and brilliant but you’ll also see what a magical talent and person he was. Sir Alan Parker gave everything to me. And I thank and love him for it.
– Dexter (Babyface) Fletcher
“Very sad to hear the news of Alan Parker’s death,” Webber tweeted. “My friend and collaborator on the Evita movie and one of the few directors to truly understand musicals on screen.”
“So very sad to share the news of the passing of my dear friend, Sir Alan Parker,” tweeted Modine. “Being cast in his epic film, Birdy, transformed my life. Alan was a great artist who’s films will live forever. Godspeed, Sir Alan.”
Producer Barbara Broccoli, EON Productions: “He exhibited a curiosity that enabled his versatility from musicals such as Bugsy Malone, Fame and Pink Floyd – The Wall and to films about social justice such as Midnight Express, Mississippi Burning and The Life of David Gale; he never made the same film twice. His love of cinema as an art form began in his early childhood at the Carlton House cinema in Islington where he would ‘escape and dream’ and remained with him throughout his career.”
Said his longtime agent and UTA partner Jeremy Barber: “Sir Alan was one of the greatest storytellers of our time. His films were transportive and transformational and made me truly believe in the magic of movies. Sir Alan was a humanist and his work explored all of the nooks and crannies of life and thus helped make sense of the world around us. One of my greats joys was sharing a meal with him at his favorite place Mr. Chows and getting to listen to his incredible stories. We have lost an exceptional talent and I will miss him.”
Deadline will update this story with additional reactions to Parker’s death.