‘Evita’ and ‘Fame’ director Sir Alan Parker dies aged 76

British film director Sir Alan Parker has died aged 76. His long career saw him create a wide range of films including music charged hits like Fame, The Commitments, Evita and Bugsy Malone, and dramas including Midnight Express, Mississippi Burning, Angela’s Ashes and The Life of David Gale. 

After a successful career in advertising and directing commercials Parker moved in to being a screenwriter and director. His first film, 1976’s Bugsy Malone, was a musical about the famous gangster and all the roles were played by children. Jodie Foster and Scott Biao headed the cast.

He followed this up with Midnight Express (1978) before creating the massive box office hit Fame in 1980. The movie followed the lives of students and teachers at New York’s High School for the Performing Arts. The films soundtrack was also a massive success and it spawned a long running television program that continued the story.

Throughout the 1980’s Parker made a series of films that were both critically acclaimed and commercial successes including Angel Heart, Mississippi Burning and Birdy. At the start of the 1990’s he had another music filled success with The Commitments  which told the story of a formation of a soul band in Dublin’s poorest suburbs.

In 1996 he brought the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical Evita to the screen. The film had been bogged down in development hell for over 15 years and filming the epic musical saw Parker taking on a range of challenges including getting Lloyd Webber and Rice, who had not worked together for years, to reunite a write new music for the film version, plus getting permission to film in Argentina and casting the perfect actress to play Eva Peron.

Michelle Pfeiffer originally signed on for the film but had to drop out when she fell pregnant, Glenn Close was considered as a replacement, but Parker opted to cast Madonna in the lead role after she wrote him a lengthy letter expressing her desire to take on the role.  The film was a box office smash and Madonna won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Peron.

In 1999 Parker filmed Angela’s Ashes. Based on the best selling autobiography by Frank McCourt the film was a box office disappointment.  Parker’s final film was 2003’s The Life of David Gale. Starring Laura Linney, Kate Winslet and Kevin Spacey it dealt with the issue of capital punishment and the death penalty. The film was panned by critics and would be Parker’s last production.

Parker was awarded a CBE by Queen Elizabeth II in the 1995 birthday honours, in 2002 he made a Knight Commander in the New Year Honours. His family announced his passing, saying he died on Friday morning following a lengthy illness.

Praise for his work has come from the actors, musicians and creatives he worked with. Matthew Modine who starred in Birdy posted to social media saying being cast in the epic picture transformed his life, and praising Parker as a great artist whose work will live forever.  Musician Peter Gabriel, who composed the score for the film, said Parker had left behind a wonderful legacy of work.

Lord Lloyd Webber said Parker was one of the few directors who understood how to transfer musicals to the screen, while Antonio Banderas, who played Che opposite Madonna’s Eva Peron, praised Parker as a “great director”.

OIP Staff

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