Q&A: Mark Kermode interviews Sir Alan Parker

WHEN?: 23/5


When was the moment when film directors lost control of their work?

  • Read on for why Sir Alan Parker admires Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate

Sir Alan Parker, director of films including Bugsy Malone, Fame, Evita and The Commitments, is the surprise guest at film critic Mark Kermode’s monthly BFI Q&A.

He’s chosen Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, perhaps controversially, as a film he admires and is prepared to defend.

Cimino beat Parker to the best director Oscar for The Deer Hunter over Midnight Express in 1979. ‘The camera was on me when the result was announced,’ Sir Alan tells Kermode. ‘And instead of saying: ‘Well done’ as you are supposed to do, I just said: ‘Oh f**k!”

Heaven’s Gate is notorious for its ¬£4 million budget ballooning to ¬£36 million. ‘Every film student should watch it because there are things in it which are so extraordinarily beautiful that they can’t be ignored.’

He cites as an example the rollerskating clip below:

‘There are 10 scenes like this,’ remembers Sir Alan. ‘All of these set pieces go on for so long and you have to ask why. He needed someone to take it away from him, re-edit it and totally change what he’d done.

‘It’s a failed film but there are masterful moments so much better than Sir David Lean or The Revenant for example. It’s also the watershed moment when directors lost control of their work.’

Kermode points out that this is an unusual choice for Parker, whose own reputation is for bringing films in on time and in budget and asks what he thought damaged Heaven’s Gate box office and sealed the fate of its studio backer, United Artists.

‘What killed it were the emerging stories of how profligate Cimino was. He was also a man with no sense of charm about him and people like you don’t forget that.’

Our favourite Sir Alan Parker moment

  • Mark Kermode has a Q&A at the BFI each month on a Monday. Tickets for the next one are available¬†here. We’ve been to each of the first 5 and surprise guests have included Sanjeev Bhaskar talking about his love of Elvis movies and High-Rise director Ben Wheatley. Tweet your questions in advance to @KermodeMovie via #MK3D
  • Enjoyed this Q&A? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham
  • One final favourite Parker moment:

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