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Alan Parker (1933–2020), Oscar-nominated director of “Midnight Express,” “Mississippi Burning”

by Linnea Crowther

Alan Parker was a British film director known for movies including “Midnight Express,” “Mississippi Burning,” and “Bugsy Malone.”

Parker’s acclaimed career

“Bugsy Malone” (1976) was Parker’s debut as a feature filmmaker – he wrote and directed the musical comedy starring child actors as gangsters and molls. Though Parker would direct a number of other musicals over the course of his career, his next film was deliberately very different. “Midnight Express” (1978) was a dark and scary account of an American’s incarceration in and escape from a Turkish prison, and Parker was nominated for his first Academy Award for it. He would be nominated again in 1988 for “Mississippi Burning,” a crime thriller set in the heart of the Civil Rights-era South. Parker’s other notable films include “Fame” (1980), “Pink Floyd – The Wall” (1982), “Birdy” (1984), “Angel Heart” (1987), “The Commitments” (1991), “Evita” (1996), and “Angela’s Ashes” (1999). Parker was honored with the BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award in 2013, the organization’s lifetime achievement award, and he was knighted in 2002.

Parker on his filmmaking legacy

“I can’t change people’s minds. I only have two hours to talk to anybody in the audience about whatever my particular point of view is. So all I can do is provoke debate. The films that I do tend to polarise people’s views. But hopefully people will talk about the film when they leave here. That’s the most I could ask for.” —from a 2003 interview with the BFI


What people said about him

Full obituary: The New York Times

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