Hollywood director Alan Parker, dies at 76

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Alan Parker, a successful and sometimes surprising filmmaker whose diverse output includes ‘Bugsy Malone’, ‘Midnight Express’, and ‘Evita’, has died at 76, his family said.

A Briton who became a Hollywood heavyweight, Parker also directed ‘Fame’, ‘The Commitments’ and ‘Mississippi Burning’. Together his movies won 10 Academy Awards and 19 British Academy Film Awards.

The director’s family said he died Friday in London after a long illness.

Parker was born in London in in 1944 and, like many other aspiring British directors of his generation, including Ridley Scott and Adrian Lyne, began his career in advertising as a copywriter and director of commercials.

He moved into television with critically acclaimed 1974 drama ‘The Evacuees’, which won an international Emmy Award.

The next year he wrote and directed his first feature, ‘Bugsy Malone’, an unusual, exuberant musical pastiche of gangster films with a cast of children, including a young Jodie Foster.

He followed that with 1978 feature ‘Midnight Express’, the reality-based story of an American’s harrowing incarceration in a Turkish prison for alleged drug offenses. It won two Oscars — including one for Oliver Stone’s script — and gained Parker the first of two best-director nominations.

Parker ranged widely across subjects and genres. While ‘Shoot the Moon’ (1982) and ‘Angela’s Ashes’ (1999) were family dramas, ‘Angel Heart’ (1987) was an occult thriller and ‘Mississippi Burning’ (1988) was a powerful civil rights drama that was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including best director.

Parker was also a notable director of musicals, a genre he both embraced and expanded. ‘Fame’ (1980) was a gritty but celebratory story of life at a performing arts high school, ‘Pink Floyd _ the Wall’ (1982) was a surreal rock opera, ‘The Commitments’ (1991) charted the ups and downs of a ramshackle Dublin soul band, and ‘Evita’ (1996) cast Madonna as Argentine first lady Eva Peron in a big-screen version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical. His final film was death-row drama ‘The Life of David Gale’ in 2003.

Fellow British filmmaker David Puttnam said Parker “was my oldest and closest friend — I was always in awe of his talent. My life, and those of many others who loved and respected him, will never be the same again.”

Parker is survived by his wife Lisa Moran-Parker, children Lucy, Alexander, Jake, Nathan and Henry, and seven grandchildren.