Alan Parker, versatile director of films including Fame, dies at 76

Director Alan Parker, pictured here in 2013, directed a number of well-regarded films, working in a range of styles and genres. His death followed a long, unspecified illness, said a spokesman.
Director Alan Parker, pictured here in 2013, directed a number of well-regarded films, working in a range of styles and genres. His death followed a long, unspecified illness, said a spokesman.

LONDON • Alan Parker, who was nominated for the best-director Oscar for the 1978 film Midnight Express and again 10 years later for Mississippi Burning, died on Friday in South London. He was 76.

His death followed a long, unspecified illness, said a spokesman for the British Film Institute.

Parker directed a number of other well-regarded films, working in a range of styles and genres.

These included Fame (1980), a musical about students at the High School of Performing Arts in New York, which won two Oscars for Best Original Song (Fame) and Best Original Score; and Angela's Ashes (1999), which is based on Frank McCourt's popular autobiography.

Other films included Midnight Express (1978), about an American college student who is thrown into a Turkish prison on a drug smuggling charge; and Mississippi Burning (1988), a fictionalised treatment of the real-life case involving the murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964.

In 1996, Parker directed the film version of the stage musical Evita, with Madonna in the role of Eva Peron.

Madonna, he told The Mirror in 1996, was not the easiest person to work with but he found a way to get the best out of her.

"My secret was to let her moan to my assistants to get it out of her system so that by the time she stepped in front of the camera, she was all complained out," he said.

The performance won her a Golden Globe.

Parker was born on Feb 14, 1944, in the Islington district of London.

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

 

In a discussion held by the British Film Institute in conjunction with the release of his final film as a director - The Life Of David Gale (2003), about a death-penalty opponent facing execution for murder - Parker talked about the intuition and serendipity that play a part in the director's art.

"It seems to me that a director's job is to look for wherever the magic may be in any scene and sometimes, it's not where you think," he said.

"Sometimes the images in your head are better than what you end up with," he added. "Sometimes they're nowhere near as good as what happens in front of you."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 02, 2020, with the headline 'Alan Parker, versatile director of films including Fame, dies at 76'. Print Edition | Subscribe