Father Geek here with some very un-cool news that I none-the-less have to pass on to you. The self-titled "Paranoid's Director" Alan J. Pakula has died while driving down the Long Island Expressway. Suffolk County Police say the acclaimed Writer/Director/Producer was struck in the head by a pipe which crashed through his Volvo's windshield and the 70 yearold filmmaker died at the scene. Being one of the babyboomer paranoid's for which he made his films old Father Geek feels a great sense of personal loss. In my opinion he was one of the last of the great socially relevent Directors working in the American film industry. He will be sorely missed!
Pakula burst onto the film scene as Producer of FEAR STRIKES OUT in 1957. A film which introduced the world to Antony Perkins as the manic-depressive Boston Red-Sox star outfielder Jimmy Piersall. The film launched both their careers. Pakula followed that critical success up with one of the greatest motion pictures ever made, novelist Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD in 1962. Alan's career was then assured. With a Academy Award Best Picture nomination under his belt he went on to produce Natalie Wood's INSIDE DAISY CLOVER and Steve McQueen's BABY THE RAIN MUST FALL, two topnotch films from 1965. Then in 1969 he both produced and directed THE STERILE CUCKOO which showcased Lisa Minnelli in a strong dramatic role. He was Director/Producer again in 1971 on KLUTE, an exceptional movie with Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland. That was my final year in film school at UT and the film was held up to us as a near perfect thriller, Harry's mother and I repeatedly took all our friends to it and I must have seen it a dozen times that year on the big screen. I still watch my video print at least once a year.
1974 saw Alan produce Warren Beatty's PARALLAX VIEW, but 1976 was Pakula's banner year. One of my and Harry's all time favorite motion pictures was to be produced and directed by him that year. ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN was a masterwork that would earn Alan an Academy Award nomination, 2 Golden Globe nominations and the New York Film Critics Award for direction. It was the talk of the country and it underscored his recurrent themes of paranoia, lost of innocence,and man's ability to cope with tragedy. He picked up on America's lost of trust in our institutions and leadership, and documented it throughout his film career. He cared about the world and he put social issues in the forefront of his motion pictures, a rare thing in modern blockbuster minded Hollywood. In 1979 he produced STARTING OVER and in 1982 he received an Academy Award nomination for writing SOPHIE'S CHOICE which he also produced and directed. He also wrote and directed 1990's PRESUMED INNOCENT with Harrison Ford, as well as 93's PELICAN BRIEF with Julia Roberts. The last film of Alan's I saw was the stylistic DEVIL'S OWN from last year. It's a shame we've lost him, he had alot of great movies still in him and we're all the poorer for not seeing them.