The British film director Sir Alan Parker, whose film ranged from children’s gangster pastiche Bugsy Malone to epic musical Evita, has died after a long illness at the age of 76.
North London-born Sir Alan began his career in the cut-throat world of commercial making in the 1960s, rising from an initial copywriter’s job to direct classic campaigns, such as the Cinzano ads starring Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins.
The vibrant world of London advertising in the ’70s also produced top filmmaking contemporaries Adrian Lyne and Ridley and Tony Scott.
Sir Alan had a commercial sensibility that never departed him and the Guardian film reviewer Peter Bradshaw recalls he once jokingly berated him at the Cannes Film Festival for “failing to join him in condemning the wishy-washy artiness of the Brit establishment and the hoity-toity world of the British Film Institute”.
Ironically, Sir Alan later became chairman of the BFI board of governors and was awarded a BAFTA Fellowship.
It’s for his extraordinary run of diverse but always commercial films, starting with Bugsy Malone (1976), and including Fame (1980), Pink Floyd: The Wall (1982), Birdy (1984), Mississippi Burning (1988), The Commitments (1991) and Evita (1996), that he’ll always be remembered.
Musician Peter Gabriel paid sincere tribute to him, saying “he also had a serious impact on my own life as he was the first film director to think I might be able to create a film score”.
Hollywood star Ben Stiller didn’t work with Sir Alan, but was certainly influenced by the range and calibre of his films. “So sad to hear of Alan Parker’s passing. What a great director who made what I consider “real” movies.” he wrote.
Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber, with whom he collaborated on the 1996 hit musical Evita, tweeted: “My friend and collaborator on the Evita movie and one of the few directors to truly understand musicals on screen.”
Matthew Modine starred in 1984’s post Vietnam War movie Birdy said. “Being cast in his epic film, Birdy, transformed my life. Alan was a great artist who’s films will live forever. Godspeed, Sir Alan.”
Sir Alan was twice Oscar-nominated for best director, for 1978’s Midnight Express and for 1988’s Deep South racial thriller Mississippi Burning. He was knighted in 2002 for services to the film industry.
An undeniably great director, Sir Alan was unassuming about his career. “I’m always afraid someone’s going to tap me on the shoulder one day and say, “Back to North London”,” he once said.
In 2015 Sir Alan left his entire working archive to the BFI National Archive.
He is survived by his second wife, Lisa Moran-Parker, five children and seven grandchildren.