Alan Parker obituary: Bugsy Malone, Midnight Express and The Commitments director dies aged 76

Sir Alan Parker, one of Britain’s greatest filmmakers of the past fifty years, has died at the age of 76.

The award-winning director of Bugsy Malone, Midnight Express and The Commitments passed away this morning following a lengthy illness.

Born in 1944, Parker began his career in advertising as a copywriter but quickly graduated to writing and directing commercials.

His big break came in 1975 when he helmed the war-based television drama The Evacuees which led to him to the first of seven BAFTA accolades during his prestige career.

The following year, he directed the hit family musical Bugsy Malone (1976) and scooped a second BAFTA for his screenplay in the process.

However, his most acclaimed work came in 1978 when he helmed the factual drama Midnight Express. The film, which centred on American student Billy Hayes’s traumatic ordeal at a tough Turkish prison, landed Parker a third BAFTA and a first Oscar nomination for his direction.

He then returned to the music genre with the drama Fame (1980); renowned for its famous soundtrack which included the Oscar-winning song “Fame”.

Two years later, he juggled between making the emotional family drama Shoot the Moon (starring Albert Finney and Diane Keaton) and the cult fantasy musical Pink Floyd: The Wall. The latter film scored two BAFTA wins including Best Original Song for Roger Waters’ memorable tune “Another Brick in the Wall”.

In 1984, BAFTA honoured Parker with the prestigious Michael Balcon Award for his outstanding contribution to British cinema. That same year saw the Cannes Film Festival reward him with the Grand Prize of the Jury for his work on the gritty drama Birdy.

He then directed the bleak mystery thriller Angel Heart (1987) before following that up with the factual crime-drama Mississippi Burning (1988).

Starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe as two FBI agents investigating the disappearance of civil rights activists in a racially-motivated town, the film earned Parker his second (and final) Oscar nomination for Best Director.

After helming the romantic drama Come See the Paradise (1990), Parker received praise for his work on the Irish-based musical The Commitments (1991). The film was an unexpected hit and helped the British filmmaker score another two BAFTAs for his directing AND producing.

Having previously worked with musicians Irene Cara and Pink Floyd, Parker then collaborated with pop star Madonna on the big-screen adaption of the hit musical Evita (1995) as well as music videos for two of its most renowned songs.

Towards the end of his career, he helmed the family drama Angela’s Ashes (1999) before concluding his directional career with the 2003 crime drama The Life of David Gale (starring Kevin Spacey and Kate Winslet).

A founding member of the Directors Guild of Great Britain, Parker was also chairman of the UK Film Council. He also received a CBE in 1995 and a knighthood in 2002.

His final BAFTA success came in 2013 when he received the Fellowship Award for his remarkable career in film.

Sir Alan is survived by his wife Lisa Moran-Parker, five children and seven grandchildren.

 

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