×

Director Alan Parker on His Days as a ‘Melody’ Scribe

Alan Parker, director of such movies as “Midnight Express,” “Fame” and “Evita,” is being honored with a British Film Institute retrospective through Oct. 25 in London. Parker was a 26-year-old ad copywriter when he was first mentioned in Variety — in 1970, as screenwriter for “Melody.”

What are your memories of “Melody”? 

I hadn’t really thought about writing a screenplay at the time. I hadn’t started directing, except for a few commercials in the basement of the agency where I worked. I was quite happy in advertising and had some success as a copywriter, so to get a film made of my script was as much a surprise as a thrill.

How did the idea come to you? 

David Puttnam and Charles Saatchi (colleagues at the CDP ad agency) took me to lunch in Soho (Central London). They leaned across (the table), conspiratorially, and said, “Alan, we’re thinking of going into film, and today we are going to discover you.” I said, “Why are you discovering me? Why can’t I discover you?” The plan was for me to write a script, and Charles to write a script, and Puttnam would attempt to sell them. I had never written anything longer than 30 seconds at the time, and so it was a shock when it got financed. Puttnam had obtained the rights to seven Bee Gees songs from Robert Stigwood. This was 1969, and pre-“Saturday Night Fever”/falsetto Bee Gees — and so I wrote the script around the songs. There is a lyric in the song “The First of May” that went, “When we were small, and Christmas trees were tall, we used to love while others used to play,” and I framed the story around that thought, mixed in with memories of my own childhood growing up in North London, mixed with a few memories from Puttnam. The film was mostly financed by Edgar Bronfman. Apparently his 16-year-old son, Edgar Bronfman Jr., read the script and recommended that his father make the movie. Edgar Jr. was also a production runner on the film.

Was the film a success?

It wasn’t a big hit except, curiously, in Japan. I still get letters from fans of the film in Tokyo and Osaka. Creatively, it got us all started. Up to this point, I had no intentions of a film career, but on “Melody,” I directed a small second-unit sequence, which was used, so probably I was bitten by the film bug then. Creatively, it has had an impact on other directors, as I have had many overtures, over the years, to remake it. Wes Anderson acknowledged that his film “Moonrise Kingdom” was inspired by “Melody.”

Parker was a 24-year-old ad copywriter when he was first mentioned in Variety — in 1970, as screenwriter for “Melody.”
Click image for large preview

More Film

  • Stuber

    ‘Stuber’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Twentieth Century Fox claims the top spot in spending with “Stuber.” Ads placed for the comedy had an estimated media value of $4.91 million through Sunday for 1,325 national ad airings on 42 networks. [...]

  • BTS - J-Hope, V, Jungkook, Jimin,

    BTS' 'Bring the Soul: The Movie' Gets Global Theatrical Release

    BTS will be back on the big screen this summer. The Korean pop group announced today that their latest feature film, “Bring the Soul: The Movie,” will have a global release on August 7. It arrives just six and a half months after the septet’s last film release, “Love Yourself in Seoul.” “Bring the Soul” [...]

  • Box Office: 'Yesterday' Movie Takes on

    Box Office: 'Annabelle Comes Home' and 'Yesterday' Take on 'Toy Story 4'

    The weekend box office has gone to the dolls. “Annabelle Comes Home,” a supernatural horror film about a possessed toy, is facing off against another band of plastic figurines: “Toy Story 4.” Disney-Pixar’s “Toy Story 4” is expected to dominate box office charts again over newcomers “Annabelle Comes Home” and “Yesterday,” a fantasy musical set [...]

  • 'The Current War' Trailer: Benedict Cumberbatch,

    Benedict Cumberbatch and Nicholas Hoult Feud in 'The Current War' Trailer (Watch)

    101 Studios has released an official new trailer for the Martin Scorcese-produced thriller, “The Current War,”  offering a glimpse into the dramatic 19th century battle over electricity that became known as the “war of the currents.” The film, which is a dramatization of real-life events, will follow the tumultuous journey of Thomas Edison, played by [...]

  • Ford v Ferrari

    Oscars: 31 Upcoming Films That Could Enter the Awards Race

    The year reaches the halfway mark on June 30, and traditionally films from the first six months have an uphill battle in the Oscar race. However, this year’s January-June crop might get a boost from the accelerated schedule: Nominations voting is a tight Jan. 2-Jan. 7, 2020. So if voters start their homework now, early [...]

  • Yesterday Movie Danny Boyle

    Danny Boyle on 'Yesterday,' Leaving 'Bond 25' and Why the Beatles Still Rock

    Danny Boyle would like to reintroduce you to the Beatles. The iconic foursome certainly needs no introduction, but in his movie “Yesterday,” which debuts June 28, the director envisions a word where nobody has heard of John, Paul, George and Ringo. That is, nobody besides Jack Malik. When the struggling songwriter, portrayed by newcomer Himesh [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content