The British film industry suffered a blow today with the news Sir Alan Parker’s passing at the age of 76 after a lengthy illness.
Parker was born in Islington, North London to Elsie, a dressmaker, and William, a house painter. He started his career in the late 1960’s directing TV commercials before going on to direct iconic musicals such as Bugsy Malone, Fame, Pink Floyd – The Wall and Evita, as well as the acclaimed drama films Midnight Express, Angel Heart and Mississippi Burning. In his career, which spanned four decades, he directed actors such as John Hurt, Robert De Niro, Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, Jodie Foster, Emily Watson, Johnathan Pryce, Albert Finney, Diane Keaton and Madonna.
Prolific and well-loved, Parker has been nominated for eight BAFTA awards, three Golden Globes and two Oscars, while his films have won nineteen BAFTAs, ten Golden Globes and six Academy Awards. His films were wildly varied, ranging from a parody gangster musical featuring a cast entirely made up of children to gritty neo-noir dramas about drug smuggling and racial violence.
As a director, first and foremost, you should always be truthful to yourself — to what you are trying to say and how you choose to say it. But a film doesn’t exist in a film can. It only exists when it flickers on the screen and an audience experiences it. So how can you ignore the tastes, emotions and expectations of all those people sitting there in the dark?
The director was also passionately dedicated to raising awareness about film and culture in the UK, lecturing at various film schools. In 1995 he was appointed CBE for services to the film industry, before being awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Directors Guild of Great Britain in 1999. In 2013 he was awarded the BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award – the highest honour the British Film Academy can give to a filmmaker.
Alan Parker films available to stream and rent:
Words by Steph Green
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