11th August 2020

In_pictures In Pictures: Alan Parker’s film legacy

In_pictures In Pictures: Alan Parker’s film legacy


in_pictures Alan ParkerImage copyright
Getty Images

Alan Parker, who has died at the age of 76, was one of Britain’s most revered directors.

His filmography spanned genres from thrillers and comedies to musicals and wartime dramas.

Here are some of the more memorable moments from his six-decade career.

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in_pictures The Evacuees

A former advertising copywriter, Parker’s breakthrough came with the 1974 BBC TV drama The Evacuees, which told the story of two Jewish boys evacuated to wartime Liverpool.

Written by Jack Rosenthal, the play won an International Emmy and a Bafta for direction.

in_pictures Bugsy MaloneImage copyright
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Parker wrote and directed his first feature film, Bugsy Malone, in 1975. A musical spoof of gangster movies, it starred a cast made entirely of children who fired “splurge guns” containing whipped cream instead of bullets.

The film, which starred Jodie Foster, Scott Baio and Dexter Fletcher, survives as a stage play – despite Parker claiming it was “a film about America based only on what [he] knew about American movies”.

in_pictures Midnight ExpressImage copyright

The director’s next film couldn’t have been any more different. Midnight Express was a thriller about an American tourist arrested for drug possession in Turkey.

The six-week shoot in Malta was “unrelentingly hot” but Parker recalled it being an enjoyable experience – even though John Hurt, playing the role of a heroin addict, decided to develop a “filthy” body odour to get into character.

“His decision to not bathe for six weeks made him less than popular to have a drink with at the Hilton bar,” Parker later recalled.

in_pictures FameImage copyright

The musical Fame (1980) was a celebration of youth and the arts in New York, which won two Academy Awards and spawned a popular television series.

One of the film’s most tricky scenes saw the students of New York’s School of Performing Arts flood into the street for an impromptu song and dance number, set to the title song by Irene Cara.

However, at the time of the three-day shoot, the song hadn’t been written – so the cast are actually dancing to Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff.

in_pictures Shoot The MoonImage copyright

“Shoot the Moon was the most personal film I ever made and a cathartic experience for me,” said Parker of his next movie.

Starring Diane Keaton and Albert Finney, it followed the fate of a young couple, whose failing marriage, separation and love affairs devastate their four children.

However, the film was a box office flop, and failed to make back its $12m production budget.

in_pictures Pink Floyd: The WallImage copyright

Pink Floyd: The Wall was inspired by the prog-rock band’s album of the same name. Released in 1982, it was an impressionistic, nightmarish collage of images and music, with animation by Gerald Scarfe.

It starred Bob Geldof as a rock star who, driven into insanity by the death of his father, constructs a physical and emotional wall to protect himself.

“This isn’t the most fun to listen to and some viewers don’t find it to much fun to watch,” noted film critic Roger Ebert, “but the 1982 film is without question the best of all serious fiction films devoted to rock.”

in_pictures BirdyImage copyright
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1984’s Birdy told the story of a strange, trusting friendship between two Vietnam veterans – Birdy (Matthew Modine), an introverted teenager who returns from the war mentally shattered and convinced he is a bird, and his protective friend Al (Nicolas Cage).

Parker originally turned down the opportunity to adapt William Wharton’s 1978 novel, saying it was impossible to film, but after relenting he went on to win the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival.

in_pictures Angel HeartImage copyright
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Mickey Rourke oozed charisma in Angel Heart, a detective story that slowly transitioned into straight-up horror, as private detective Harry Angel uncovered a series of grisly and unsettling murders.

The film’s release was mired in controversy in the US, where censors gave it an X rating, normally reserved for pornographic films.

After losing an appeal, Parker cut 10 seconds from a sex scene between Rourke and Cosby Show actress Lisa Bonet, and the film was reclassified with an R rating.

“I figured that a few celluloid feet of Mickey’s ass was no great loss to the history cinema,” he observed.

in_pictures Mississippi BurningImage copyright

Starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe, Mississippi Burning was a drama about the killing of three civil rights workers in 1964.

The hard-hitting thriller was nominated for seven Academy Awards including best director for Parker – but won only one, for cinematography.

Parker later wrote of that the story, which was based on true events, “cannot be the definitive film of the black civil rights struggle”.

“Our heroes were still white and, in truth, the film would probably have never been made if they weren’t. This is, perhaps, as much a sad reflection on present-day society as it is on the film industry.”

in_pictures The CommitmentsImage copyright

The Commitments, made in 1990, was a rambunctious adaptation of Roddy Doyle’s novel about a young, Irish working-class soul band, and their ultimate self-destruction.

Featuring covers of soul classics like Mustang Sally, Try A Little Tenderness and In The Midnight Hour, the soundtrack spent 173 weeks in the UK charts.

in_pictures EvitaImage copyright

Starring Madonna, the movie of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical Evita was Parker’s biggest box office hit, grossing more than $141m worldwide.

Parker said Madonna had lobbied hard to win the title role, recalling that “as far as she was concerned, no one could play Evita as well as she could, and she said that she would sing, dance and act her heart out… and that’s exactly what she did”.

in_pictures Angela's AshesImage copyright

Parker returned to Ireland for 1999’s Angela’s Ashes, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir by Frank McCourt.

Starring Emily Watson and Robert Carlyle, it told the story of a five-year-old boy in poverty-stricken 1930s Limerick, who struggles to survive alongside his formidable mother and alcoholic father.

It was the director’s penultimate film, followed by 2003’s The Life of David Gale, which starred Kate Winslet and Laura Linney.

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