Alan J. Pakula
Pakula in 1990
Born(1928-04-07)April 7, 1928
The Bronx, New York City, U.S.
DiedNovember 19, 1998(1998-11-19) (aged 70)
Occupation(s)Film director, screenwriter, producer
Years active1957–1998
Notable work
(m. 1963; div. 1971)
Hannah Cohn Boorstin
(m. 1973)

Alan Jay Pakula (/pəˈklə/; April 7, 1928 – November 19, 1998) was an American film director, writer, and producer. He was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Picture for To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Best Director for All the President's Men (1976), and Best Adapted Screenplay for Sophie's Choice (1982).

Pakula was also notable for directing his "paranoia trilogy": Klute (1971), The Parallax View (1974) and All the President's Men (1976).

He is the subject of the 2023 documentary, Alan Pakula: Going for Truth, directed by Matthew Miele and featuring Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Kline, Harrison Ford, Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Alan Alda, Jane Alexander, Alec Baldwin, Candice Bergen, and Carl Bernstein, among others.[1]

Early life

Pakula was born in The Bronx, New York, to Polish Jewish parents, Jeanette (née Goldstein) and Paul Pakula. He was educated at The Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and Yale University, where he majored in drama.


Pakula started his Hollywood career as an assistant in the cartoon department at Warner Bros. In 1957, he undertook his first production role for Paramount Pictures. In 1962, he produced To Kill a Mockingbird, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. Pakula had a successful professional relationship as the producer of movies directed by Mockingbird director Robert Mulligan from 1957 to 1968. In 1969, he directed his first feature, The Sterile Cuckoo, starring Liza Minnelli.[2]

In 1971, Pakula released the first installment of what would informally come to be known as his "paranoia trilogy."[citation needed] Klute, the story of a relationship between a private eye (played by Donald Sutherland) and a call girl (played by Jane Fonda, who won an Oscar for her performance), was a commercial and critical success. This was followed in 1974 by The Parallax View starring Warren Beatty, a labyrinthine post-Watergate thriller involving political assassinations. The film has been noted for its experimental use of hypnotic imagery in a celebrated film-within-a-film sequence in which the protagonist is inducted into the Parallax Corporation, whose main, although secret, enterprise is domestic terrorism.

Finally, in 1976, Pakula rounded out the "trilogy" with All the President's Men, based on the bestselling account of the Watergate scandal written by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, played by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, respectively. It was another commercial hit, considered by many critics and fans to be one of the best thrillers of the 1970s.[3]

Pakula scored another hit in 1982 with Sophie's Choice, starring Meryl Streep. His screenplay, based on the novel by William Styron, was nominated for an Academy Award. Later commercial successes included Presumed Innocent, based on the bestselling novel by Scott Turow, and The Pelican Brief, an adaptation of John Grisham's bestseller. His final film was the crime thriller The Devil's Own, where he reunited with Harrison Ford.

Personal life

From October 19, 1963, until 1971, Pakula was married to actress Hope Lange. He was married to his second wife, author Hannah Pakula (formerly Hannah Cohn Boorstin) from 1973 until his death in 1998.[4]

He had two stepchildren from his marriage with Hope Lange, Christopher and Patricia Murray, and three stepchildren from his second marriage. They are Louis, Robert, and Anna Boorstin. He also spoke very openly about his stepson's battle with depression before his death.[5]


On November 19, 1998, Pakula was driving on the Long Island Expressway in Melville, New York, when a driver in front of him hit a metal pipe, causing it to crash through his windshield and strike him in the head. His car swerved off the road and into a fence. He was taken to North Shore University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.[6]


Year Title Director Producer Writer
1969 The Sterile Cuckoo Yes Yes No
1971 Klute Yes Yes No
1973 Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing Yes Yes No
1974 The Parallax View Yes Yes No
1976 All the President's Men Yes No No
1978 Comes a Horseman Yes No No
1979 Starting Over Yes Yes No
1981 Rollover Yes No No
1982 Sophie's Choice Yes Yes Yes
1986 Dream Lover Yes Yes No
1987 Orphans Yes Yes No
1989 See You in the Morning Yes Yes Yes
1990 Presumed Innocent Yes No Yes
1992 Consenting Adults Yes Yes No
1993 The Pelican Brief Yes Yes Yes
1997 The Devil's Own Yes No No
Producer only
Year Title Director
1957 Fear Strikes Out Robert Mulligan
1962 To Kill a Mockingbird
1963 Love with the Proper Stranger
1965 Baby the Rain Must Fall
Inside Daisy Clover
1967 Up the Down Staircase
1968 The Stalking Moon


  1. ^ Kennedy, Lisa (2023-04-06). "'Alan Pakula: Going for Truth' Review: A Hollywood Memorial for a Friend". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-09-15.
  2. ^ Canby, Vincent (October 23, 1969). "The Sterile Cuckoo (1969) Screen: 'The Sterile Cuckoo,' Old-Style TV Drama". The New York Times.
  3. ^ "All the President's Men Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. January 1976. Retrieved November 8, 2013.
  4. ^ Sterngold, James (1998-11-20). "Alan J. Pakula, Film Director, Dies at 70". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2024-01-28.
  5. ^ Bumiller, Elisabeth (1998-05-13). "PUBLIC LIVES; A Filmmaker's Family Faces Mental Illness". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2024-01-28.
  6. ^ Sterngold, James (November 20, 1998). "Alan J. Pakula, Film Director, Dies at 70". The New York Times. Retrieved March 17, 2009.

Further reading