According to the British Film Institute (via The Hollywood Reporter), director Alan Parker – whose films won 10 Golden Globes and 10 Oscars – has died “after a long illness”. Parker’s film career spanned a wide range of genres and aesthetics, with him directing musicals like Fame and To avoid, real life dramas like Burning Mississippi and Angela’s Ashesand horror thrillers like angel heart (which received an X rating from the MPAA due to a sex scene starring Mickey Rourke and Lisa Bonet who had to be cut by 10 seconds to get an R rating). Parker was 76.
Parker was born in London in 1944 into a working class family and had no aspirations to get into the cinema. It was only after he got a job at the advertising agency CDP after finishing his studies that he began to enter the world of cinema provisionally. Parker got a job as a copywriter at the ad agency, which then naturally evolved into commercial production at a time when CDP had a reputation for doing really good ads. After meeting film producer David Puttnam, Parker was inspired to write his first screenplay –Melody, which was directed by Waris Hussein.
He started his own production company, initially to do commercials, but eventually turned entirely to feature film making in order to be taken more seriously as a director. His first feature film was the period musical Bugsy Malone, which he followed with the neo-noir written by Oliver Stone Midnight Express, establishing a pattern of unexpected movements that he has maintained throughout his career. He followed Midnight Express, for example, with the theater of the performing arts school Fame. Before the dramatic adaptation of the memoirs Angela’s Ashes, he made the film version of To avoid with Madonna.
Parker was knighted in 2002 and received the British Film Institute Academy Fellowship (the organization’s highest honor) in 2013. Speak on a BFI sign in 2015, Parker explained that he left the movie industry because the cost of making a movie has gone up so much that a director has to fight producers and studios for every decision. “Every day was a battle, every day it was hard,” he explained, adding, “You dig yourself under the ropes and get in the ring and I’ve been punching all my life to fight for the job.” His last feature film was from 2003 David Gale Life.