According to IMDb, “In order to join the Directors Guild of America (DGA) a candidate must be nominated by three established members. When Alan Parker applied for membership, his nominators were: Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange), Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather trilogy, Apocalypse Now) and John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy, Marathon Man). Those are some pretty talented people, not to mention bonafide rock-star directors, vouching for a former ad man turned fearless auteur.

 Alan Parker, director of Bugsy Malone, Midnight Express, Fame, Angel Heart, Mississippi Burning, The Commitments, and many other magical films is dead at the age of 76. The British Film Institute confirmed Parker’s death on Friday, July 31st, noting he died after a long undisclosed illness.

 Alan began his career as one of London’s most talented and sought-after advertising copywriters. He had no real interest in filmmaking at the time, and he actually pursued the ad industry because he thought it might be a good way to meet girls. Regardless, he soon got into directing commercials, and he plied his trade in that particular field for about ten years.

 Parker got his big break in Hollywood when he wrote and directed his first feature film, the 1976 gangster comedy musical Bugsy Malone. Bold from the get-go, Parker pulled off a Depression-era movie with great style and a fantastic soundtrack, featuring a twelve-year-old Jodie Foster and a cast of children all under the age of fifteen. Bugsy Malone was nominated for the Cannes Palme d’Or, and Parker’s career was off and running.

 In a 1994 interview, Parker stated that his mission as a filmmaker was to make at least one movie for each genre available. And if he didn’t succeed, he certainly gave it one heck of a try. The London native wrote and directed musicals, dramas, comedies, period pieces, horror movies, thrillers, and true-story epics in his auspicious and far-reaching oeuvre.

 In 1978, Alan Parker put the world on notice that he would be audacious and uncompromising in his approach to filmmaking with the release of a masterful, gut-wrenching story of the American drug smuggler Billy Hayes trapped in a nightmarish and violent Turkish prison—Midnight Express. Although some criticized the film for a less-than-accurate portrayal of Hayes’ story, the film received positive reviews and made $35 million on a $2.3 million budget. Oliver Stone won the Academy Award for his screenplay, and Giorgio Moroder won for Best Original Score. Alan himself was nominated for Best Director, and John Hurt was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

 Parker went on to direct other memorable, award-winning films, including the inspiring musical Fame, a film adaptation of Pink Floyd’s iconic album The Wall, the film adaptation of the stage play Evita, and the Human-Rights themed The Life of David Gale.

 In 1987, Parker took on the horror genre with the bloody thriller Angel Heart. The occult mystery is Alan’s most controversial film due to the elements of voodoo, ritual murder, and explicit carnal knowledge, and made him an infamous figure in the world of film. When asked about the movie’s controversy and brouhaha, the knighted director commented, “It’s not my job to make you comfortable in the cinema.”

 Andrew Lloyd Webber reacted to the news of Parker’s passing with a tweet: “Very sad to hear the news of Alan Parker’s death. My friend and collaborator on the ‘Evita’ movie and one of the few directors to truly understand musicals on screen.”

 The Academy wrote, “From ‘Fame’ to ‘Midnight Express,’ two-time Oscar nominee Alan Parker was a chameleon. His work entertained us, connected us, and gave us such a strong sense of time and place. An extraordinary talent, he will be greatly missed.”

 Sir Alan Parker is survived by his wife Lisa Moran and his children Henry, Alexander, Lucy, Jake, and Nathan, his seven grandchildren, as well as a commendable and exciting body of work in the cinema arts.

 

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