Oscar Directors: Pakula, Alan J.

Born on April 7, 1928, in the Bronx, New York, of Polish-Jewish parents; he died in 1998 in a car accident.

The son of a printing and advertising businessman, he began writing and acting in plays as a high school student. After graduating from the Yale Drama School, he entered films in 1949 as an assistant at the Warner Bros. cartoon department. In 1950 he joined MGM as an apprentice and the following year went to work for Paramount as a production assistant.

In 1957, he produced his first film, “Fear Strikes Out.” In the early 1960s, he formed his own production company in partnership with that film's director, Robert Mulligan. They scored a success with their first production, “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962), an Oscar nominee for Best Picture, and went on to collaborate on five more films with Pakula producing and Mulligan directing.

Pakula made his own debut as director in 1969 with “The Sterile Cuckoo,” a sensitive look at a grotesque love relationship, starring the young Liza Minnelli.

His next effort as a director, “Klute,” a better film, was a thriller with psychological overtones that enjoyed success with the critics and the public. Pakula soared to the fore as one of Hollywood's most sought-after directors following the great boxoffice success of “All the President's Men” (1976), for which he was nominated for an Oscar as Best Director.

Working mainly out of New York City, Pakula subsequently meandered through several unremarkable productions before regaining stature with the critics with a screen adaptation of William Styron's “Sophie's Choice” (1982). The film earned a Best Actress Oscar Award for Meryl Streep and an Oscar nomination for Pakula's screenplay. He scored a popular success with “Presumed Innocent” (1990), which was dismissed by the critics.

Pakula was married (1963-1969) to actress Hope Lange, then wed writer Hannah Cohn Boorstin in 1973, and remarried Lange in 1986.

Oscar Alert

In 1976, Alan Pakula competed for the Best Director Oscar with John G. Avildsen, who won for “Rocky,” Ingmar Bergman for “Face to Face,” Sidney Lumet for “Network,” and Lina Wertmuller for “Seven Beauties.”

Wertmuller became the first woman ever to be nominated for the Best Director Oscar.