‘Midnight Express,’ ‘Fame,’ ‘Evita’ Director Alan Parker Dies @ 76

Following a lengthy illness, British director Alan Parker, one of the medium's most audacious genre-hoppers, died Friday, July 31, at 76.

His death was confirmed by ExtraTV.

Born in London on February 14, 1944, Parker distinguished himself in the '60s in the field of advertising, where he stood out as a creator with a distinctively filmic vision.

Fascinating interview with Parker and David Puttnam (b. 1941) on their days in advertising and later film collaborations:

Awarded for his work in commercials, he made his directorial debut with a highly regarded TV movie for the BBC, The Evacuees (1975), about two Jewish boys evacuated from Manchester to Blackpool during the London Blitz.

His feature debut was the audacious Bugsy Malone (1976), an all-child telling of the gangster's life story that starred Scott Baio (b. 1960) and a 12-year-old Jodie Foster (b. 1962). Of Foster, he would later say, "She taught me. Even then, she could've directed the whole film. She's very smart."

Brad Davis in Midnight Express (Image via Columbia)

Next came perhaps his most lauded film, Midnight Express (1977), which told the story of American Billy Hayes (b. 1947), who had been arrested and imprisoned in Turkey for attempting to smuggle hashish. The film garnered a slew of Oscar nominations — including Best Director for Parker — but has been criticized for taking liberties with the original story, including demonizing the Turkish characters.

In 1979, capitalizing on his belief that using music together with imagery could be extra powerful, he directed the musical drama Fame, which became a box-office smash and cultural touchstone.

Among his other movies were the Shoot the Moon (1982), Pink Floyd the Wall (1982), Birdy (1984) and Angel Heart (1987). He garnered another Best Director nomination for the civil rights drama Mississippi Burning (1988).

Another of his music-driven hits was 1991's The Commitments, but his ultimate music-driven statement was possibly 1996's Evita, which reimagined the Broadway hit as a political drama, delivering both the film and Madonna (b. 1958) Golden Globes and becoming the first hit Hollywood musical since Grease (1978).

Madonna, Antonio Banderas (b. 1960) and Parker on Evita:

His final film was The Life of David Gale (2003).

Parker is survived by his wife, five children and seven grandchildren.

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