Alan Parker, director of Midnight Express, dies

Brenda Watkins
July 31, 2020

Parker was one of Britain's most successful directors, whose diverse body of work includes "Fame", Mississippi Burning, "The Commitments and "Angela's Ashes".

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) said it was "deeply saddened" by the news, and the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science called him "an extraordinary talent".

Parker was born in London in in 1944 and, like many other aspiring British directors of his generation, including Ridley Scott and Adrian Lyne, began his career in advertising as a copywriter and director of commercials.

He graduated to writing and directing commercials, and in 1974 moved into long form drama when he directed the BBC film, The Evacuees, written by Jack Rosenthal.

Alan Parker's movies won 10 Academy Awards and 19 British Academy Film Awards.

His 1978 dark drama Midnight Express, about a USA student who ended up in a Turkish prison, was followed in 1980 by the genre-setting American teen musical drama Fame. It won two Oscars and gained Parker a best-director nomination.

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So what that means potentially is that if we wish to do more things in the future, we may have to do less of some other things", he said.

Parker ranged widely across subjects and genres.

Those pivots came hard and fast: 1980's Fame was a box office hit about performing arts students that inspired a TV spin-off; 1982's Shoot the Moon was a divorce drama starring Diane Keaton and Albert Finney; 1982 also saw the release of Pink Floyd: The Wall, an unnerving and surreal adaptation of the classic rock album of the same name; 1984's Birdy was a critically acclaimed drama starring Nicolas Cage and Matthew Modine as Vietnam veterans who struggle upon returning home.

Parker would close out his career with the 1999 adaptation of Angela's Ashes and the 2003 drama The Life of David Gale, both of which received generally mixed-to-negative reviews from critics and were financial disappointments. He was knighted by the Queen in 2002, and in 2013 received the British film academy's highest honour, the BAFTA Fellowship.

The filmmaker served as chairman of the Board of Governors of the BFI in 1998, and as the first chairman of the U.K. Film Council the following year.

"His work entertained us, connected us, and gave us such a strong sense of time and place", it said in a tweet, calling him "a chameleon" for his ability to bend genre and change with the times.

He is survived by his wife Lisa Moran-Parker, his children Lucy, Alexander, Jake, Nathan and Henry, and seven grandchildren.

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