British filmmaker Alan Parker is dead. According to his family he died at the age of 76 after a long illness.[“Parker was especially successful in the seventies and eighties – with films like 12 o’clock at night – Midnight Express, Bugsy Malone, Angel Heart, Evita and Mississippi Burning – The Root of Hate. He also had great success with the films Fame, The Commitments and Pink Floyd – The Wall.”]
His films have won ten Oscars, ten Golden Globes and nineteen British Academy Film Awards. He was also knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2002 for his achievements in the film industry. Parker was committed to the British film industry and was chairman of the British Film Institute and the UK Film Council.
Film producer David Puttnam called Parker “his oldest and closest friend”. Director Nick Murphy praised him as a “huge talent”. “Alan Parker has made so many wonderful films. Just wonderful,” he wrote on Twitter.
Parker was very creative – he wrote novels and essays about the making of all his films and drew cartoons. He surprised the film world when he announced his retirement a few years ago. “Directors don\’t improve with age,” he said. “They repeat themselves and although there are exceptions, their work generally doesn\’t get any better.” Instead, he devoted himself to painting.
Parker was born in London on 14 February 1944. With a seamstress for a mother and a painter for a father, he grew up in a council flat in what was then the working class district of Islington. “Everyone I knew wanted to be in a band to escape this world,” Parker later told The Guardian. He was the first child to attend high school in his apartment building and worked his way up – from an errand boy in the mailroom of an advertising agency to a copywriter.
The basement of the advertising agency stood empty, Parker used it to experiment with film. He founded a company together with producer Alan Marshall and shot hundreds of commercials in the 70s – that was his film school. Because Parker was desperate to make films. Even as a copywriter, Parker wrote scripts, but the BBC rejected them all: “We were not accepted in this world,” Parker told the Telegraph. The station was full of graduates from elite universities at the time.
He financed his first feature film by taking out a mortgage on his house – the result was the film musical Bugsy Malone (1976) with children as actors, including Jodie Foster. The script of the gangster parody was based on the stories Parker told his four children on long car rides. For Parker, it was a chance to end up in Hollywood as a career changer. And it was the beginning of a lifelong competition with the other British commercial and Hollywood director, Ridley Scott.
Next he did something completely different: the prison drama Midnight Express based on a true story. The film and director were also nominated for Oscars, but only Oliver Stone won one for screenplay adaptation and Giorgio Moroder won one for film music. This was followed by such diverse works as Birdy with Matthew Modine and Nicolas Cage on the aftermath of the Vietnam War, Pink Floyd – The Wall, Evita and The Ashes of My Mother.
And of course Fame (1980) about the tough selection process and studies at a New York Academy of Performing Arts. Fame is an ironic title. These people are desperate for fame and success, Parker once told the Independent.
Alan Parker was very creative, wrote novels and essays about the making of all his films, drew cartoons and had a big pack of previously unfilmed scripts in his drawer. A few years ago he surprised the film world when he announced his retirement with the words: “Directors don\’t improve with age.”
Instead, Parker resorted to brush and paint: “It was refreshing to be creative on your own without the help of 100 other people,” he told The Guardian. “I can honestly say that the last few years since I\’ve concentrated entirely on painting have been the best of my life.”
He leaves behind a large family: wife Lisa Moran-Parker, his five children Lucy, Alexander, Jake, Nathan and Henry, and seven grandchildren.
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