Wow, a name I have not heard in quite some time. He made some really good films and he pulled no punches. Midnight Express, Angel Heart and Mississippi Burning are among my favorites. Sad to hear of his passing. But his work lives on.
Wow. I hadn't realised how many genre bending home runs he hit within his career. He'd direct a smash hit (Bugsy Malone) and then completely change base (Midnight Express), then switch again (Fame) and so on. Fuckin brilliant. Birdy is my personal favourite film by him. Sheer genius.
In MELODY, two youngsters, “Daniel” (Mark Lester) and “Melody” (Tracy Hyde), declare to their parents that they want to get married--not sometime in the future but as soon as possible. The story is told from the children's point of view.
For his first feature film assignment, Alan Parker wrote the story and screenplay for the 1971 film. Parker spent several months visiting schools in London and tape-recording conversations with the children about their experiences and thoughts before writing the script. According to producer, David Puttnam, "...large chunks of the film were lifted directly from the children's ideas".
Waris Hussein directed the 1971 film. Although the picture was a box office disappointment in both the United States and Britain, it turned out to be an enormous hit in Japan as well as in some Latin American countries such as Argentina and Chile, and a modest hit in South Africa.
The Bee Gees provided most of the original song score, with Richard Hewson providing additional orchestral music. Polydor released the soundtrack LP, with the first CD reissue coming from Polydor Japan in 1985.
Continuing his work with children. Alan Parker made his directorial debut with 1976’s BUGSY MALONE, a classic gangster story told with an all-child cast. Small boys who talk like Al Capone. Girls in flapper dresses. Machine guns that fire whipped cream. That's the bizarre take that writer Alan Parker had on prohibition-era Chicago. And it’s a musical too, with songs by Paul Williams. Scott Baio stars as “Bugsy,” a wise-guy who gets tangled up in a local gang rivalry, while Jodie Foster is “Tallulah,” a singer at the local speakeasy.
An article in Time stated that Parker entertained his four children on long car rides with “improvised stories” about a gangster named “Bugsy,” and the character provided inspiration for his screenplay. Parker and producer Alan Marshall had difficulty selling their idea of an all-child gangster musical to studios and personally invested at least $50,000 to get the production started. According to Time, Paramount Pictures and other unnamed investors added roughly $1.5 million in funding.
The children in the cast were all relatively new to theatrical filmmaking with the exception of thirteen-year-old Jodie Foster, who had recently received critical acclaim for her role in Martin Scorsese’s TAXI DRIVER. Parker auditioned American children living in England at U.S. Air Force bases, but he eventually found most of his young actors in the U.S., where he interviewed approximately 10,000 public school students in and around New York City. When looking for “Fat Sam,” Parker went to a Brooklyn classroom and asked who was the naughtiest boy in class; all the class replied John Cassisi, who subsequently got the part.
A 1929 New York City street set was constructed at Pinewood Studios in England. The massive set utilized over eighty tons of concrete which had to be poured into its foundation. Real steam was piped through its base so as to gush out of the street set's manholes. The street complex had to be a constructed set rather than a real-life location since the child actors were not allowed to work at night due to regulations. As such, the set could be lit for night during daytime filming.
The official paperwork to allow children to work in the movie was mountainous. Every child actor had to have an individual medical exam and work permit. More than 33 English councils were involved, as well as bureaucracy in New York and Los Angeles. The child actors were only legally able to work four hours each day, and a school was established at Pinewood with six teachers.
The costumes were tailored to fit the children from actual period clothing. The film’s pedal-powered cars were reportedly hand-made at the approximate cost of a road-worthy automobile. The film’s “splurge guns” that used custard pies as ammunition took three months to fabricate with the assistance of a gunsmith. However, despite all the work, the splurge guns did not actually fire the "splurge." Parker first tried wax balls filled with cream, but these hurt when fired, so in the end the splurge guns actually fired ping pong balls, which the actors fired at nothing. What we see on-screen is clever editing between this and shots of actors being hit by handfuls of cream thrown at them by crew members. Over 1,000 such “pies” were thrown during filming.
In addition to the script, Alan Parker also wrote several songs for the movie. When he performed some of them for producers David Puttnam and Alan Marshall (in Parker's kitchen) Puttnam responded by saying: "I think we'd better get a professional composer." Hit songwriter Paul Williams was subsequently hired.
Paul Williams’s soundtrack was performed by adults, including Williams, himself, with the children lip syncing to the songs. Jodie Foster’s contract required her to sing three songs in the picture, but Foster’s parts were previously recorded by Williams’s girlfriend. Foster reportedly wanted to re-record her own voice for the soundtrack, and legal arbitration was undertaken, but no such change was made in the final soundtrack. Of Foster, Parker later said that "If I'd have gone sick on BUGSY MALONE, I swear she could have taken over".
The film made its U.S. premiere at the Baronet Theatre in New York City on 15 September 1976. The picture was selected to represent the U.K. at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival, although it was initially rejected by the festival’s director for not being suitably “esoteric.”
BUGSY MALONE was released to mixed reviews. While it was hailed by Cosmopolitan and received the “Best Picture of the Month” Blue Ribbon award from Boxoffice, the New Yorker review condemned the film as “wholesome grotesqueness.” A novelization of the screenplay, also written by Parker, was published following the film’s release.
The film performed well in England and Japan, but Paramount gave it a limited release in U.S. theaters, usually dumping it onto second-feature screens with the re-release of THE BAD NEWS BEARS (1976). The film’s subpar $2.8 million U.S. gross reflected the poor marketing of the film.
Williams was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Music (Original Song Score and Its Adaptation or Adaptation Score). He lost to Leonard Rosenman for BOUND FOR GLORY. RSO released the soundtrack LP in the U.S. and Canada, with Polydor handling the release for the rest of the world. The first CD re-issue came from Polydor Japan in 1987.
The film won the following British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards: Production Design (Geoffrey Kirkland); Screenplay (Alan Parker); Supporting Actress (Jodie Foster); Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles in 1977 (Jodie Foster, for BUGSY MALONE and TAXI DRIVER); and Soundtrack (Les Wiggins, Clive Winter, and Ken Barker). BAFTA also nominated BUGSY MALONE in the following categories: Anthony Asquith Memorial Award (Paul Williams); Costume Design (Monica Howe); Direction (Alan Parker); and Best Film.
Alan Parker admitted to having an ambivalent attitude to the film, and for years did not include it in any biography/filmography of his work. However, over the years his attitude changed, and he later admitted to being very proud of it.
In the more than 40 years since it was made, Alan Parker very rarely gave permission for professional stage productions of BUGSY MALONE, and never liked any of those productions that he did permit. However, in 2015 he granted permission to the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith, London, to stage it and, impressed by the creative team’s plans for the show, also attended some rehearsals. The production, which opened in April 2015, was a smash hit success, getting 5-star critical reviews, sold out performances and even extending its initial run due to its popularity. Parker said he loved the production and that in places, it was even better than the film.
MIDNIGHT EXPRESS tells the true story of Billy Hayes, an American college student, who is caught smuggling drugs out of Turkey and thrown into prison. Director Alan Parker selected Brad Davis to play Hayes after auditioning "almost every young actor in America." Columbia Pictures was pushing hard for Richard Gere to take the lead role, but Parker was very unhappy with this decision, especially as Gere refused to audition for the part. Parker persisted in screen-testing other actors, and had three very strong auditions from Sam Bottoms, Dennis Quaid, and Brad Davis. These helped make the studio see that Gere wasn't the best choice. To enhance the authenticity of the movie, Parker cast unknown actors and actresses in supporting roles, rather than big name stars.
After his first two films, Parker turned down directing many children's movies as well as THE WIZ (1978) and SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (with The Bee Gees) (1978), in order to do MIDNIGHT EXPRESS. Explaining why he chose the project, Parker said that it was "The first story which could be made in Europe with a British crew, and had a chance of making it in the States. It's an American story. It doesn't compromise, and it's the opposite to what I've done before."
On 10 August 1977, Variety announced that Columbia Pictures was planning a film adaptation of Billy Hayes and William Hoffer’s 1977 best-selling book about Hayes’s imprisonment in a Turkish jail for alleged drug smuggling, Midnight Express. Film rights were purchased for $125,000, and the picture was budgeted at $2.75 million. Screenwriter Oliver Stone was reportedly paid $75,000 for the adaptation, while director Alan Parker earned $150,000, as well as a 5% share in the film’s profits. Many of the principal filmmakers agreed to defer their salaries, and accepted “points,” or shares in gross film rentals. Approximately $1.5 million in financing was secured through foreign organizations looking to shelter income from taxes.
Billy Hayes stated that the film deviated from his true story, taking liberties to depict the Turkish as “Naziesque, sadists, and sodomizers all” by adding gory fictional scenes. He objected to the picture’s exclusion of his love affair with a fellow inmate, a Swedish man named “Erich.” Hayes reported that he wrote Midnight Express to repay his father for taking out a second mortgage on the family home, raising $30,000 for his son’s legal expenses.
Oliver Stone was a new, largely untested screenwriter at the time, so when he was commissioned by Alan Parker and producers Alan Marshall and David Puttnam, they fully expected his first draft to be just a starting point. Parker, indeed, expected to take over and write the screenplay after Stone had completed his first attempt. The screenplay that Stone duly delivered blew all three away. They all had to admit that it was a superb first draft.
Prior to principal photography, Alan Parker wrote a letter to the cast and crew. According to the letter, its purposes were "Firstly, to say something before we start. Secondly, to warn you about a very difficult film, and thirdly, because I heard Ingmar Bergman always did it.” The letter went on to say that, “As you have gathered from the script, it is my intention to make a very violent, uncompromisingly brutal film, the subject matter of which will no doubt take its toll on us all. This is not just a boring prison story set in claustrophobic cells and corridors. It's much, much more than that, a prison no one's ever seen before. It's difficult to put into words, but I would like the audience to be shaken and shocked that such things happen, almost to the point of disbelief, but never to lose them."
Principal photography began 12 September 1977 in Malta, with plans to relocate to Greece. The 17th-century Fort Saint Elmo in Valletta, Malta, stood in for the location of Sagmalcilar Prison, as filming in Turkey was not permitted. Set construction at Fort Saint Elmo began mid-July 1977 and was completed for $25,000, despite heat waves that reached 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Prison visiting room scenes were filmed at nearby Knight’s Hall, a hospital built in 1574. The facility also housed a set for the asylum sequences. Billy Hayes visited the prison set on 2 October 1977, marking the two-year anniversary of his 1975 escape from Turkey.
The scene in which Billy Hayes (Brad Davis) bit the tongue out of a fellow inmate upset the crew so much, that they all walked off the set, leaving Alan Parker to shoot it with his two actors. For the scene, Davis carried a pig's tongue around in his mouth. According to Parker, this was the most grueling shoot of his career--fifty-three days with cast and crew working six-day weeks.
The film screened at the May 1978 Cannes Film Festival to general acclaim, but three months later, the picture stimulated controversy when human rights organization Amnesty International declined to premiere the film in London as a fundraiser, fearing that Turkey would be offended. One scene in which the main character abuses Turkey and Turks was removed from the picture in Holland due to protests, and Turkish nationals in the Netherlands picketed the picture and unsuccessfully sought an injunction to prohibit screenings. However, producer David Puttnam credited Columbia for standing by MIDNIGHT EXPRESS and refusing to revise its original cut.
Two months after the film’s highly successful U.S. release in October 1978, the 15-21 December 1978 LA Weekly announced that the Turkish consulate in Los Angeles had been mounting a propaganda campaign against MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, and the filmmakers met with Turkish officials at the United Nations in New York City. Turkey’s representatives requested that a ten-minute tourism advertisement be featured at the end of each screening, and demanded that Columbia and Casablanca finance television crews to film inside actual Turkish prisons to show that conditions were not as they appeared in MIDNIGHT EXPRESS.
By February 1979, Turkey was developing a new strategy to debunk MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, hiring Caner Film Productions to make a follow-up film called “Midday Express,” to provide an alternate account of Turkish prison life. The release of “Midday Express” cannot be verified.
One year after opening, MIDNIGHT EXPRESS had grossed over $30 million, including $16 million from U.S. audiences and $14 million from abroad. However, a 25 July 1979 financial statement issued by Columbia stated that the picture retained a $300,000 deficit. At that time, neither executive producer Peter Gruber nor Alan Parker had received their share of the profits, despite the film’s box-office success. Columbia explained that only $24.4 million of the $30 million gross had materialized, as rental fees had not been paid, and the studio had already subtracted $8 million for distribution. Columbia board chairman Leo Jaffe argued that the film ultimately cost $3.2 million due to “overhead” expenses such as executives’ salaries, taxes, transportation, deferments, and interest charges. The 4 November 1979 Los Angeles Times published a letter from Gruber, stating that he was indeed paid for MIDNIGHT EXPRESS. Gruber defended his good relationship with Columbia.
In 2004, Oliver Stone travelled to Turkey, issuing a much-publicized apology for MIDNIGHT EXPRESS. However, Alan Parker regarded the repentance as a publicity stunt, as Stone was in the throes of promoting his latest writing and directorial effort, ALEXANDER (2004). That film had recently provoked controversy in Greece because it portrayed Alexander the Great as bisexual. Parker also noted that Stone was not an active member of the MIDNIGHT EXPRESS production, so he was in no position to apologize for the final film. Stone’s apology also coincided with the European Union’s debate over allowing Turkey admission to the alliance. Billy Hayes returned to Turkey in 2007, also making a public statement of regret for the film’s dramatization of prison violence. The picture’s success reportedly resulted in a negative impact on Turkish tourism “for decades.”
MIDNIGHT EXPRESS was nominated for four Academy Awards in the following categories: Actor in a Supporting Role (John Hurt), Directing, Film Editing, and Best Picture. It was the recipient of two Academy Awards: for Music (Original Score) and Writing (Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium), marking Oliver Stone’s first nomination and award as a screenwriter. Alan Parker lost the Best Directing Oscar to Michael Cimino for THE DEER HUNTER. Giorgio Moroder’s Oscar-winning score was released on a Casablanca LP and later on CD.
FAME was the chronicle of the lives of several teenagers who attend a New York high school for students gifted in the performing arts. The film is divided into five acts indicated by title cards stating: “The Auditions,” “Freshman Year,” “Sophomore Year, “Junior Year,” and “Senior Year.”
In 1978, MGM acquired film rights to a story about New York City’s High School of Performing Arts by producer David De Silva and writer Christopher Gore. The property sold for $400,000. At the same time, the film’s novelization was purchased with a $150,000 advance by Fawcett Publications, even though a writer had not yet been selected.
Director Alan Parker said that De Silva was inspired to make a film about the High School for Performing Arts, also known as “PA,” after taking a fancy to a song called “Nothing” from the hit Broadway musical, A Chorus Line. The song is performed by the character “Diana Morales,” a Puerto Rican dancer who was formerly an acting student at the High School of Performing Arts. “Nothing” expresses the self-doubt and professional ostracism Morales endures at PA when, during an acting class, she is unable to replicate the sensation of riding a bobsled through the snow, an event that would never occur in her Caribbean homeland. Morales’s lyrics state that her PA acting teacher insisted she was talentless, and he bullied her out of the school. When Morales later learns the teacher died, she feels “nothing.” In FAME, a Puerto Rican character named “Coco” is approached by a man in a diner; he claims to be a successful filmmaker, but is instead a homespun pornographer. Although Coco is still in high school, and has never landed a role on Broadway, the stranger gets her attention by pretending to mistake her for an actress in A Chorus Line.
De Silva, who was a theatrical talent agent at the time, wanted to make a “pre- Chorus Line” film that showed how ambition and rejection influences the lives of vulnerable, adolescent over-achievers. His aim was to portray the youngsters before they ended up on chorus lines and casting call auditions. In 1977, De Silva paid Christopher Gore $5,000 to write a script based on his idea.
The High School of Performing Arts’ dance department chairwoman, Lydia Joel, said that the project first came to her attention in 1977, when De Silva visited the head of the drama program after the death of Freddie Prinze. The successful, twenty-two-year-old actor-comedian was a PA dropout and died on 29 January 1977 from a self-afflicted gunshot wound. Lydia Joel explained that De Silva was researching “the enormous motivations and problems” of talented youths, and was intrigued by the inner workings of the school. Prinze is cited throughout FAME as the role model for a young comedian named “Ralph,” and Lydia Joel is represented onscreen as the character “Lydia,” a bit part performed by Debbie Allen.
MGM’s production of FAME had an anticipated budget of at least $7 million. Christopher Gore finished the script, but no director was formerly attached to the project by mid-1978. Alan Parker stated that MGM sent him Gore’s screenplay “in very rough draft form.” He was interested in the story and, after visiting the school, he invited Gore to London, where the two men wrote a second version of the screenplay. Parker returned to New York City and spent many days “hanging out” at the school so he and Gore could replicate the students’ vernacular. The director claimed that he infused the teens’ stories into his new draft of the script. For instance, the film’s lunchroom sequence and the scene at THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) were based on Parker’s real-life experiences with the kids. He promised PA students that they would have priority in the film’s casting, but he also explained that he was “casting the net as far as possible” to search for talent. Neither De Silva nor Parker is credited onscreen as a writer or literary source.
The success of MIDNIGHT EXPRESS enabled Parker and producer David Puttnam to acquire a three-picture contract with Twentieth Century-Fox, but the arrangement was non-exclusive, so Parker was free to work on MGM’s FAME. While Puttnam was not included in the FAME deal, his production partner on BUGSY MALONE and MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, Alan Marshall, was hired to produce FAME with David De Silva. However, De Silva had little to do with the production, according to Alan Parker. FAME marked Parker’s first movie to be filmed in the U.S.
Although the filmmakers intended to use the High School of Performing Arts as its primary location, New York City’s Board of Education prohibited production at the building. Educators took issue with the script’s depiction of violence, “four-letter words,” and drug use, and complained that the film had “overtones” of pornography. In addition, Parker had been widely criticized for his “exaggeration” of Turkish prison violence in MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, and one board member told the director that she did not want to “risk” the chance of him portraying New York schools “in the same light as Turkish prisons.”
MGM fired back to defend its upcoming production, now budgeted at $8 million, claiming that the film did not “sensationalize contemporary manner and morals.” The studio remained committed to the project without censorship, and the director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Film, Nancy Littlefield, vowed to protect the production due to its potential benefits to the local economy. Various publications pointed out the irony that the film offered lucrative job opportunities to the very children that the Board of Education was trying to help. By forestalling the production, the board denied students the chance to exhibit their talents in front of a mass audience.
In defiance of New York City’s educational bureaucracy, Nancy Littlefield provided the filmmakers two abandoned schools outside of the board’s jurisdiction, P.S. 122 on East 9th Street, and Haaren High, on 59th and Tenth Avenue. She also granted permits to film in Times Square. Since Parker had already spent so much time researching the script at the High School of Performing Arts, he did not find it difficult to replicate the building. Haaren High was transformed into a mass sound stage at the cost of approximately $200,000, and remained a production house after the film was completed. The structure also contained carpentry shops and offices for MGM executives. Shots of staircases and dance studios were filmed at P.S. 122.
Along with the controversy surrounding New York City’s Board of Education, Parker was challenged by local labor unions which objected to Parker’s British production team. The filmmaker was unwilling to disperse the crew he had worked with for over ten years, and convinced the U.S. unions to agree to a “standby” arrangement, in which local laborers were on set as backups. He also established a reciprocal agreement, by which an American cinematographer would be hired for a future British production.
The filmmakers auditioned more than 2,000 young artists over the span of four months at the Hotel Diplomat on 108 West 43rd Street. The High School of Performing Arts’ principal of twelve years, Richard Klein, read the script before it was rejected by his superiors, and found it to be generally favorable. Although he was pressured to go along with the board, he did not want to forsake the students’ chance to perform in a major feature film. Klein circumvented the board’s ruling by encouraging the filmmakers to schedule the teens’ work during non-school hours. State law mandated that students were “free agents when classroom time was completed.” With the approval of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), Parker printed casting calls that were distributed at both the High School of Performing Arts and the High School of Music & Art, where Richard Klein also presided as principal. Klein’s position on the production remained within official school board policy. Filming took place predominantly during summer vacation, when he had no authority over his students’ activities.
As Klein predicted, the project was embraced by teen performers and their teachers, who clamored to audition. The chorus and orchestra in the finale sequence were composed of actual students, and background actors were primarily selected from the student body. The school’s drama instructor, Jim Moody, played the role of “Farrell,” and music teacher Jonathan Strasser performed the “orchestra conductor.” Of the eight lead characters, several young actors were formerly enrolled in the High School of Performing Arts, including Antonia Franceschi and Gene Anthony Ray, who was “expelled for disruptive behavior.” Laura Dean was still a student during production, and scheduled to graduate in June 1980. Fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, who also attended PA, made his feature film debut in the bit role of “Touchstone.” Choreographer Louis Falco was a PA graduate along with other crewmembers.
FAME marked the motion picture debut of Meg Tilly, who was one the film's nineteen "principal dancers," and it was the first credited role for "principal musician and vocalist" Peter Rafelson, the son of filmmaker Bob Rafelson. Pre-production included one week of rehearsals in which Parker grew familiar with the teens’ personalities and developed their roles accordingly. In one such instance, Parker discovered that Paul McCrane, who plays “Montgomery,” was a songwriter and included one of his tunes on the soundtrack. Much of the rehearsals’ improvised dialogue was incorporated into the final script. The dance and music scenes were rehearsed for six weeks before production began. Principal photography for FAME began on 9 July 1979 in New York City.
Parker took the film’s title from the hit 1975 song “Fame” by David Bowie, John Lennon, and Carlos Alomar. He said the film's title is essentially ironic, as the story is really about failure, both personal and professional, the chasing of dreams and the cruel realities of show business.
The 46th Street dance sequence was filmed over the course of three days, using eight different choreographed routines and 150 student background actors, sprinkled with fifty professional dancers. On the eve of the shoot, lead camera operator John Stanier was called home to London for personal reasons. Without a replacement, director of photography Michael Seresin manned the camera for several hours before leaders of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 644 Camera Union showed up on set and shut down production until Parker hired one of their men. By the second day, the New York Police Department was overwhelmed with traffic blockages and demanded a 4:00 p.m. curfew. In addition, the dancers went on strike the second day, and their union leaders demanded extra “stunt” pay for performing on the roofs of taxicabs.
The scene was filmed to the Donna Summer hit “Hot Stuff” because the movie’s theme song, “Fame,” had not yet been written. The previously mentioned 1975 David Bowie release, “Fame,” was not used in the film’s soundtrack. Composer Michael Gore, (no relation to the film’s writer, Christopher Gore), was inspired to write the movie’s version of “Fame” after listening to “Hot Stuff” for three days straight. Parker also noted that the finale song, “I Sing The Body Electric” was inspired by the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) song “Eldorado.” The director had repeatedly listened to the tune while working on script revisions, and brought it to Michael Gore as source material.
FAME made its world premiere on 12 May 1980 at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City. An MGM/UA marketing executive explained that the advance screenings were part of the studio’s strategy to generate critical response and word-of-mouth publicity. MGM was so concerned by the film’s lack of stars that it provided a record number of free tickets to the special screenings. The 20 June 1980 national opening in 450 theaters was heralded by a ten-day, $2.1 million advertising campaign, and the soundtrack album, released five days before the movie, saturated radio stations. The film landed in the top 50 films of the year at the box office, with a $17.8 million gross.
FAME was the first U.S. feature film to use a specific high school as its subject matter. Although principal Richard Klein was ultimately displeased with parts of the final picture, and claimed that it was “not an accurate representation,” he appreciated its depiction of a spirited student body. The movie marked the end of an era at the High School of Performing Arts; the eighty-nine-year-old-building on West 46th Street was set to be vacated in September 1982. Its 600 students merged with the 2,000 teens at the High School of Music and Art in a new building at Lincoln Center. The combined schools took on the name of New York City’s former mayor, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School. FAME prompted cities around the world to establish high schools for visual and performing arts. Alan Parker noted the irony that decades after his dispute with New York City’s Board of Education, the LaGuardia High School website refers to the institution as “the Fame school.”
Fame was nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Film Editing; Music (Original Song) – “Out Here On My Own,” music by Michael Gore, lyric by Lesley Gore; Sound (Michael J. Kohut, Aaron Rochin, Jay M. Harding, and Chris Newman); and Writing (Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen). The film won two Academy Awards for Music (Original Score) and Music (Original Song) – “Fame,” music by Michael Gore, lyric by Dean Pitchford. The song “Fame” was also recognized as #51 on AFI’s “100 Greatest American Movie Music” in its list of 100 Years…100 Songs. The soundtrack LP was released by RSO and Polydor, with the first CD re-issue coming from RSO in Germany. Rhino released a slightly expanded version of the soundtrack in 2003.
In SHOOT THE MOON, a fifteen-year marriage dissolves, leaving both the husband (Albert Finney) and wife (Diane Keaton), and their children, devastated. He's preoccupied with a career and a mistress (Karen Allen), she with a career and caring for four young children. Finney was quite busy in the early 1980s. He made nine films in three years. In fact, he finished his work on the movie LOOKER on a Friday, and went to work on SHOOT THE MOON the following Monday.
Although SHOOT THE MOON began development at Twentieth Century-Fox, the project moved to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), to be produced by a British company called Fortress Films, which is not credited onscreen. The picture marked the fourth feature film collaboration of director Alan Parker and producer Alan Marshall. A 5 August 1980 Hollywood Reporter article estimated a twelve-week shooting schedule and an $8.5 million budget.
Principal photography began 15 January 1981. Filming took place in and around Marin County, CA. For the “Dunlap” home, filmmakers used the abandoned Roy Ranch House on the eighth fairway of the San Geronimo National Golf Course in Nicasio, CA. Crew members dismantled the house into six pieces, which were then moved to a property twelve miles away, reassembled, and decorated for filming
Parker completed the film in October 1981 and hoped to earn Academy Award consideration by scheduling a release date before the end of the year. A clause in Diane Keaton’s contract, however, stated that MGM could not release SHOOT THE MOON until 1982, to prevent the actress, who also starred in Paramount Pictures’ 4 December 1981 film REDS, from competing with herself for a Best Actress nomination.
SHOOT THE MOON was screened the week of 11 January 1982 at MGM studios. Following its 22 January 1982 release in New York City, Los Angeles, and Toronto, Canada, the film opened in other major cities 19 February 1982. In May 1982, the picture played in competition at the Cannes Film Festival.
Albert Finney and Diane Keaton received Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor and Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. Finney also earned a British Academy of Film and Television (BAFTA) nomination for Best Actor. Finney lost both awards to Ben Kingsley for GANDHI. SHOOT THE MOON marked the theatrical feature film debuts of television actresses Tina Yothers and Tracey Gold. The picture was a break-even proposition for MGM, grossing $9.2 million in the U.S.
The picture features no credited musical score. The film is basically scoreless, except for pieces of piano music interludes. Some of the characters sing songs, and there are a couple of pop songs on the soundtrack, including one that plays over the closing credits.
Alan Parker's film of the classic rock album PINK FLOYD: THE WALL tells the story of rock musician “Pink” (played by Bob Geldof, making his film debut), who is undergoing a nervous breakdown in his hotel room. As he goes mad, he looks back on his life, and at the circumstances that brought him to this point, starting from the death of his father in the Second World War.
Pink Floyd’s co-founder Roger Waters originally conceived the screenplay of THE WALL as a starring vehicle for himself. One theory as to why it didn't work out that way is that his lackluster screen test led to the casting of, coincidentally, another musician with no prior acting experience, Bob Geldof. On the other hand, Alan Parker stated his opinion that, as the screenwriter, Waters was too close to the material to do it properly.
Parker was originally only going to produce the film, with Michael Seresin directing the live-action segments, and Gerald Scarfe directing the animated segments. The two were not able to come up with a cohesive vision for the project, and Parker took Seresin's place as director.
Alan Parker walked out on this project many times, probably due to an ego clash with Roger Waters. Waters was annoyed at Parker, who did not like the way that he wanted to make it a cult film. The song "Not Now John" on Pink Floyd's next album "The Final Cut" contains the following lyrics (written by Waters): "Not now John, we've gotta get on with the film show: Hollywood waits at the end of the rainbow. Who cares what it's about, as long as the kids go? So not now John I've gotta get on with the show."
According to Bob Geldof's autobiography, when filming a scene where a groupie starts sucking Pink's fingers (before he smashes up the room in "One of My Turns"), Jenny Wright couldn't get the scene right. She asked director Alan Parker what her motivation was for the scene, and he replied, "money". She got it right on the next take.
The film was viewed as a disappointment in general by the band and the film's key crew members. Writer and composer Roger Waters feels that the film is too depressing, and does not let the audience sympathize with Pink. Alan Parker felt that the result was amateurish, calling it "the most expensive student film ever made." Various conflicts occurred between Parker and Waters during shooting of the film, only adding to their distaste of the final product. Designer Gerald Scarfe claimed that he doesn't understand why people like the film. Pink Floyd's guitarist David Gilmour has stated that the film was the "least successful" version of The Wall's concept. Nevertheless, the film made it into the top 30 films of 1982, with a $22.2 million gross in the U.S. alone.
Despite the line "Soundtrack available on Columbia Records and Tapes" in the credits (on British prints of the movie and subsequent VHS editions this reads "Soundtrack available on Harvest Records and Tapes", Harvest Records being the band's long time British record label) no official soundtrack ever surfaced, because the soundtrack would have been very similar to the Wall album. In fact, the song "When the Tigers Broke Free" was unavailable on a (non-bootleg) Pink Floyd album until the "Echoes" compilation was issued in 2001. Instead, additional material which would have been included on the proposed soundtrack album was released in 1983 as a new album, "The Final Cut". In 2003, a special CD edition of this album was released which included "When the Tigers Broke Free". One rumored title for the album was "Spare Bricks".
BIRDY is the story of two unlikely boyhood friends, the confident and popular “Al” (Nicolas Cage) and “Birdy” (Matthew Modine), awkward, withdrawn, and obsessed with birds. The advent of the war in Vietnam shatters their youth, and they both return irrevocably changed – one physically traumatized, the other emotionally fractured.
In 1979, Orion Pictures optioned the William Wharton novel for $150,000. The novel was widely considered to be unfilmable, and in October 1982 the newly-formed A&M Films purchased the rights from Orion. Screenwriters Sandy Kroopf and Jack Behr updated the novel, which was set in the 1940s and World War II, to the 1960s and Vietnam.
Although it was initially announced that A&M Films were pursuing Jonathan Demme to direct the film, Alan Parker was ultimately engaged. Matthew Modine auditioned for the role of Al, but Alan Parker cast him as Birdy instead.
Principal photography began on 14 May 1984. The schedule called for four weeks in Philadelphia, PA, followed by seven weeks in Santa Clara, CA. There was an unusual arrangement that permitted British members of director Alan Parker’s crew to work alongside members of both the east and west coast union locals of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). Members of the two camera locals were also allowed to work in each other’s territorial jurisdictions. The production’s Vietnam War scenes were filmed in Modesto, CA, and a train scene was shot in Stockton, CA. The budget was $12 million.
When the film failed to garner Academy Award nominations and media attention following its 21 December 1984 opening, distributor Tri-Star Pictures canceled plans for a late-January and February 1985 national release. Following further audience research and test marketing, the company tested two different advertising strategies in Dallas and Houston, TX, beginning 1 February 1985. The film was then generally released on 8 March 1985 with a campaign focusing on the friendship of the two lead characters.
The 21 December 1984 Los Angeles Times review said BIRDY “attempts the almost impossible: to change an almost surreal novel’s interior monologues and descriptions into vibrant screen action. And, through an inventive adaptation and the passion and precision of Matthew Modine’s and Nicolas Cage’s beautifully sustained performances, it may well have succeeded.”
The film was selected to screen in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 1985 where the picture was nominated for the prestigious Palme D'Or (Golden Palm) Award but won the prestigious Grand Prize of the Jury Award. That artistic success did not translate into success at the box office, where the film grossed a paltry $1.5 million.
This was the debut film score composed by progressive rock singer-songwriter Peter Gabriel. His music made heavy use of the Fairlight CMI music computer, an early sampling system. Gabriel was one of the earliest adopters of the Fairlight, which became one of the most commonly used instruments in 1980s popular music. The soundtrack was composed and recorded in one weekend. Due to time constraints, Gabriel partly recycled music from his third and fourth solo albums for much of the score, which included excerpts from "Not One Of Us", "Family Snapshot", "The Family and the Fishing Net", and "San Jacinto." One cue was simply an instrumental version of "The Rhythm of the Heat", and the main theme was a variation of "Wallflower." Gabriel’s score was released by Geffen Records in the U.S. and Charisma/Virgin in Europe.
In ANGEL HEART, private investigator “Harry Angel” (Mickey Rourke) is hired by a man who calls himself “Louis Cyphre” (Robert De Niro) to track down a singer named Johnny Favorite. But the investigation takes an unexpected and somber turn.
In August 1978, rights to William Hjorstberg’s novel, Falling Angel, were optioned by Paramount Pictures, with Hjorstberg set to write the screenplay adaptation. At the time, Robert Evans was slated to produce and John Frankenheimer to direct. Later, Dick Richards replaced Frankenheimer, and actor Dustin Hoffman was being considered for the lead role.
Director Alan Parker was interested in Falling Angel for several years before producer Elliott Kastner gave a copy of the novel to him in early 1985. After signing on to write and direct, Parker changed several aspects of the story, including adding New Orleans as a setting, and changing the year in which the story took place from 1959 to 1955, so that the film could have “an older look.”
Parker stated that casting Robert De Niro as “Louis Cyphre” was not easy. Before accepting the role, De Niro went with Parker to New York City’s Harlem neighborhood; there, the actor read the script at a mission, wanting to “feel and smell the location to make sure he was comfortable with everything.” Parker claimed that De Niro's performance as was so eerie and realistic, that he generally avoided him during his scenes, letting him just direct himself.
Parker first offered the role of “Harry Angel” to Al Pacino and Jack Nicholson. Mickey Rourke, who was cast prior to De Niro, was intimidated by De Niro at the start of filming, and Parker believed it helped intensify the early scenes between Angel and Cyphre.
The budget for ANGEL HEART was $18 million. The production was independently financed by executive producers Andrew Vajna and Mario Kassar, who planned to independently distribute the film as well. Though Parker wanted to shoot the film in black and white, he realized it was not a commercially viable option, so he worked with set and costume designers to remove all primary colors, giving the film a “monochromatic look” similar to that of a film noir.
Shooting began 31 March 1986, after a week of rehearsals. Four weeks of filming took place in New York City before the production moved to New Orleans for another seven weeks, with a wrap date scheduled for 22 June 1986. Over seventy-eight locations were used in the film, including Eldridge Street in the Lower East Side of New York City, and Harlem. Post-production took place in Europe, and, starting with 400,000 feet of film, editors took four months to finish a first cut of the film.
A 25 February 1987 Daily Variety news item announced that the film had earned an [R] (Restricted) rating from the Motion Picture Association of American (MPAA) after the two previous versions submitted to the MPAA received [X] ratings. Audiences in Montreal, Canada, were able to see the uncut version of ANGEL HEART, including ten seconds of the sex scene between Rourke and Bonet which were cut from the version screened in the U.S.
The film opened on 820 screens in the U.S. and Canada on 6 March 1987, and critical reception was mixed. Rourke’s performance was praised as a standout, along with the technical aspects of the film, namely production design, cinematography, and music. However, Parker’s script received criticism for being convoluted and exposition-heavy; in her Los Angeles Times review, Sheila Benson stated, “there are gaps in the story, a crucial lack of parallelism about the murders, one interview in which Rourke makes amazing leaps of knowledge from we-don’t-know-where. But [Rourke’s] performance that fuels it all…may be enough to carry us.” Critics generally agreed that the film was not deserving of its previous [X] rating, although they predicted the controversy might help box-office earnings.
Trevor Jones’ score shared the Antilles CD with five songs. ANGEL HEART was marginally profitable with a $22.4 million gross in the U.S.
In MISSISSIPPI BURNING, two FBI agents (Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe), with wildly different styles, arrive in Mississippi to investigate the disappearance of some civil rights activists.
The film’s credits include the following statement: “This film was inspired by actual events which took place in the South during the 1960’s. The characters, however, are fictitious and do not depict real people either living or dead.” The film's story was based on the 1964 killings of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman in Neshoba County, Mississippi, but veered from the real-life account with two main fictional conceits. While the film portrayed “Mrs. Pell” (Frances McDormand) as the key informant who was seduced by FBI “Agent Rupert Anderson” (Hackman), in reality the FBI spent nearly three years and $30,000 to pay off not one, but two Klan informants, whose prison sentences were lessened through plea bargains.
In another departure from the true story, MISSISSIPPI BURNING depicted “Agent Monk” (Badja Djola) as an African American “specialist” who was brought in to intimidate “Mayor Tilman” (R. Lee Ermey) into confessing his knowledge of the crime. However, the FBI did not employ African American agents in 1964, and although screenwriter Chris Gerolmo originally wrote the character as a Mafia hit man, director Alan Parker changed his race “as a metaphor for…the assertion of black anger.” Samuel L. Jackson auditioned for a role, but was turned down by Parker, who thought he didn't sound Southern enough. In fact, Jackson grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Gerolmo originally envisioned the film as a “political parable with western overtones” starring William Hurt and Clint Eastwood. He brought the finished screenplay to his friend, producer Frederick Zollo, who sold it to Orion Pictures, which financed the $15 million budget. Directors considered for the project included Milos Forman and John Schlesinger, but Alan Parker was ultimately chosen. Parker clashed with Gerolmo, who was required to be absent from set due to a Writers Guild strike during production. Parker claimed to have completely re-written the script after a failed attempt to collaborate on revisions. Gerolmo, who received sole writing credit, described Parker as anti-American and “fascist,” accused him of removing the “lyricism” from his script, and said he aimed to portray all white people as “ugly, oafish, stupid and drunk.”
Three hundred Southern towns in Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas, were considered as filming locales. However, most of the shooting took place in Mississippi, while Lafayette, Alabama, was used for small-town exteriors. Principal photography began 7 March 1988 after a week of rehearsals. Parker aimed for a documentary feel, and began the shoot with back-to-back night scenes. Noting that the director wanted “real Southern black faces,” casting director Shari Rhodes scoured the streets of black neighborhoods and nursing homes, and selected homeless men for “walk-ons.” Shooting ended a day and a half ahead of schedule on 14 May 1988.
The news interview clips featured in the film were shot by Alan Parker with real locals from Mississippi, and their lines were ad-libbed with only minor prompting. Parker said it was at times an uncomfortable experience, since he wasn't always sure if they didn't believe what they were saying.
A story made the rounds on the set of an over-eager extra (a 'reporter' or 'FBI agent') who introduced himself to Gene Hackman with an exuberant handshake, welcomed him to Mississippi and invited the actor to family dinner. The encounter was then reported to Alan Parker or staff (likely by Hackman himself, justifiably irritated). But when that extra could not be identified from casting's "mug shots", all extras thought to resemble the miscreant were excluded from future casting calls for extras.
The film’s world premiere took place 2 December 1988 in Washington, D.C., followed by a 9 December 1988 release in Los Angeles and New York City, at a total of nine theaters. The release expanded to 550 theaters on 13 January 1989.
Although critical reception was generally positive, the film suffered a negative backlash for its portrayal of white men as the heroes who fought for African Americans during the civil rights movement. Civil rights activist Coretta Scott King wrote a condemnation of the film in the 13 December 1988 Los Angeles Times titled “Hollywood’s Latest Perversion: The Civil-Rights Era as a White Experience,” while the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) accused MISSISSIPPI BURNING of portraying African Americans as “cowed, submissive, and blank-faced” while glorifying white FBI agents. African American actor Danny Glover also spoke out publicly against the film, stating that it failed to show the courageous African Americans who stood up against Klansmen.
Despite the backlash, the film took in $30.5 million in box-office receipts, and was also a “box-office smash” in Johannesburg, South Africa, where the issue of civil rights struck a chord with black viewers oppressed by Apartheid. MISSISSIPPI BURNING received several awards, including an Academy Award for Cinematography, and National Board of Review awards for Best Film, Best Actor (Gene Hackman), Best Supporting Actress (Frances McDormand), and Best Director. Academy Award nominations included Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role (Gene Hackman), Actress in a Supporting Role (Frances McDormand), Director, Sound, and Film Editing. Alan Parker lost the Best Director Oscar to Barry Levinson for RAIN MAN.
Trevor Jones' score for the film was released on an Antilles Records CD, which also included some dialogue and sound effects. An isolated score track appeared on the 2015 Twilight Time Blu-ray release of the film.
In COME SEE THE PARADISE, the passionate romance between an Irish-American man (Dennis Quaid) and a Japanese-American woman (Tamlyn Tomita) is threatened when the Pearl Harbor attack happens, and the woman is forced into an internment camp because of her ethnicity.
The film's title is derived from a poem by Russian poet Anna Akh. Since writer-director Alan Parker couldn't locate the original work, Parker wrote his own new version. It read: We all dream our American dreams. When we're awake and when we sleep. So much hope that grief belies. Far beyond the lies and sighs. Because dreams are free. And so are we. Come See the Paradise.
Parker interviewed 3,000 Japanese-Americans during casting, and sometimes used details of their conversations to improve the film’s texture. To recreate Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo neighborhood, Parker used an old downtown section of Portland, Oregon, that was formerly its Japanese neighborhood, called “J-Town.” Parker credited part of the film’s low, $17.5 budget to his use of an “architecturally accurate street” in J-Town that required a minimum of “art direction.” After filming in Portland from 1 August into September 1989, the production moved to Astoria, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; and the Mojave Desert outside Palmdale, California, where the crew built an internment camp.
COME SEE THE PARADISE screened 13 May 1990 at the 43rd Cannes Film Festival. The film premiered In Los Angeles on 17 December 1990; opened in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City on 23 December 1990; and opened wide around the country 18 January 1991. The film was an utter failure commercially, grossing only $950,000 in the U.S.
Randy Edelman’s score was released by Varese Sarabande in the U.S., Milan in Europe, and RCA in Japan.
The 26 May 1990 Screen International announced plans by Alan Parker to direct THE COMMITMENTS. Based on the 1987 novel by Roddy Doyle, THE COMMITMENTS was the first installment of “The Barrytown Trilogy,” which chronicled the exploits of the fictional “Rabbitte” family, who decide to start a band. Parker said that the reason he chose the project was because it combined two elements that made him the most comfortable: staging musical scenes and working with young people.
A “Casting Call” appeared in the July-August 1990 Irish American Press, seeking an Irish-born trumpet player, 38 to 50 years old. Other instrumental skills would be considered as well. By mid-August 1990, casting was completed, following four months of auditioning 3,000 musicians and singers from Dublin, Ireland. Parker said that he also auditioned 64 bands, each of which was assigned two songs. Parker put many people who did not make the cut for the band into bit parts in the movie.
The “Commitments” Parker chose had little or no acting experience, with the exception of Johnny Murphy (who played “Joey 'The Lips' Fagan”), a veteran actor who was taught to play the trumpet for his role. (Parker originally wanted Van Morrison for the role, and considered Bob Hoskins, before deciding on a relative unknown.) Parker rehearsed the group, as actors and as a band, for a month before filming began. Principal photography began 27 August 1990. The band performed live on set, rather than miming to prerecorded music. However, on at least one occasion, the singers were accompanied by an instrumental track. Filming was completed ten weeks later on 3 November 1990. Production costs were estimated at slightly less than $12 million.
The West Coast debut of THE COMMITMENTS was at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, CA, on 6 August 1991. The picture was screened numerous times in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Toronto, beginning in April 1991, for audiences comprised of “opinion makers, the press, record company executives, club owners, and disc jockeys.” Distributor Twentieth Century Fox also organized a press junket in Dublin, inviting representatives from news organizations, broadcasting, and entertainment publications. Posters were issued to exhibitors in February 1991 announcing an August 1991 release, followed by two film clips. In addition, postcards were sent to the news media as release dates approached.
Alan Parker explained the intensive approach to marketing as necessary to reach the film’s intended audience. Although Fox executives targeted a young adult audience, test screenings demonstrated the picture’s appeal to older viewers, due in part to its musical content. “Counterculture consultant” J. V. McAuley hosted a bus tour of Los Angeles-area nightclubs on 6 August 1991, during which journalists could drink and socialize with cast members. An official premiere was held the next night at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, which included a performance by the Commitments, with guest vocalist Wilson Pickett.
THE COMMITMENTS opened commercially on 14 August 1991 in Los Angeles, New York City, and Ireland. Although audience members received a “Tosser’s Glossary” of Dublin slang to better understand the dialogue, Parker told the 2 August 1991 Hollywood Reporter that “the language is like music,” and could easily be understood by laypersons. The film opened to positive reviews. Variety reported earnings of $7.09 million within the first five weekends of release, with grosses as high as $52,852 per screen. Fox commended Parker, who previously worked in advertising, for his assistance with the successful marketing campaign. The 23 January 1992 Hollywood Reporter noted that THE COMMITMENTS was “the highest grossing film of all time in the Irish Republic.” The film ultimately grossed $15 million in the U.S. alone. MCA released the film’s soundtrack CD in August 1991, which proved to be so popular that a “Vol. 2” CD was released in May 1992.
On 22 December 1998, the Hollywood Reporter reported that Alan Parker filed a $3 million suit against Beacon Communications, claiming the company did not fulfill its contractual obligation, which guaranteed him fifty percent of “all revenue from distribution and ancillary rights.” An audit determined that Parker was owed nearly $2.45 million in profits, and nearly $3 million in soundtrack album royalties. No information on the outcome of the suit is available. Regardless, Alan Parker cited this movie as the most personally enjoyable production experience of his career.
THE ROAD TO WELLVILLE is the story about the ins and outs of one unusual health facility in the early twentieth century, run by the eccentric “Dr. John Harvey Kellogg” (Anthony Hopkins).
Jack Nicholson was also considered to star as Dr. Kellogg. Much of the movie was filmed at the Mohonk Mountain House near New Paltz, New York, a Quaker-family-owned hotel, built in stages from 1879 to 1910. It's situated on the Shawangunk Ridge, which is south of the Catskill Mountains.
Alan Parker directed and co-wrote the 1994 release. The film was a money-loser, grossing $6.6 million in the U.S. Rachel Portman’s score was released by Varese Sarabande.
The original Broadway production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s EVITA opened at the Broadway Theater on September 25, 1979, ran for 1,567 performances and won the 1980 Tony Award for the Best Musical. The musical is based on the life of Evita Duarte, a B-picture Argentinian actress who eventually became the wife of Argentinian president Juan Perón, and the most beloved and hated woman in Argentina.
It took Alan Parker three attempts to get the film made. The first attempt was in 1977 but was dropped, since producer Robert Stigwood wanted to produce the London stage version first. On the second attempt in 1979, during the opening of the Broadway version, Stigwood then asked Parker, who promised to do the film, but delayed, since he was doing another musical, FAME, and he balked at doing another immediately after that. Parker finally went ahead with the film at the end of 1994 when Andrew G. Vajna's company Cinergi offered him the chance to do it.
Oliver Stone was planning to make a film about Eva Perón, but after several disagreements with Argentinian President Carlos Menem, he abandoned the project. Stone receives a token credit as a writer for this film, despite having made no input to the script.
According to Parker, Cher, Ann-Margret, Diane Keaton, Cyndi Lauper, and Marie Osmond were considered to play Eva Peron and Elton John was considered for the role of Che during various stages of the film's long development. Madonna was cast as Evita after she wrote a long letter to Alan Parker convincing him she was perfect to play the role. The letter was accompanied by a copy of her video for "Take A Bow" where she had specifically asked the director that it resemble the '40s and '50s. Also, in the letter she compared her life to Eva Peron's; both lost a parent as a child, and both arrived young in the big city with no money or friends but managed to succeed.
Patrick Swayze was considered for the role of “Che,” as was Mandy Patinkin, who originated the role on Broadway. Antonio Banderas got the part by submitting a self-made audition tape and performing all the musical numbers in front of Alan Parker at a dinner meet in Miami. Bob Gunton, Julio Iglesias, and Raul Julia were considered for the role of Juan Domingo Perón at various times during the film's development. Jonathan Pryce eventually was cast.
Parker recalled that when he arrived in Buenos Aires, he soon realized how significant and important Eva Peron was to the Argentine people. Fearful that Parker would tarnish her reputation, locals had graffitied "Go home Madonna and Alan Parker" everywhere.
The call sheet for the funeral sequence listed 4,000 extras: 200 soldiers, 50 army officers, 50 foot police, 60 sailors, 60 nurses, 300 working-class women, 100 upper-class women, 51 descamisados (poor people), 20 naval officers, 12 naval police, 300 working-class men, 15 palace guards, 8 pallbearers, 60 navy cadets, 60 army cadets, 300 middle-class women, 300 middle-class men, 100 aristocratic men, 100 boys, 100 girls, 200 male background, 200 female background, 1,400 miscellaneous background, a gun carriage, coffin, 4 army motorcycles, 2 police motorcycles, 6 Bren carriers, 2 half-track military vehicles, 2 fox tanks, 4 army trucks, and a CGT float.
EVITA premiered on 14 December 1996. Time magazine selected the film as one of the top 10 of 1996. The $55 million production did not recoup its costs in the U.S., grossing a tad over $50 million. But international receipts were excellent, at $91 million, putting the film solidly in the black. The Warner Bros. soundtrack CD was also a big seller, in both single and double CD editions. It peaked at number two on the Billboard 200 chart, and was certified quintuple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), with an estimated 11 million units sold worldwide.
Alan Parker directed Madonna in the music video for the song “You Must Love Me,” which was written specifically for the film. Parker received a Golden Globe nomination as Best Director, losing to Milos Forman for THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT. Parker also received a BAFTA nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, losing to Anthony Minghella for THE ENGLISH PATIENT.