Alan J. Pakula (April 7, 1928 - November 19, 1998) was an American film producer, writer and director noted for his contributions to the conspiracy thriller genre.
Pakula was born in New York to Polish Jewish parents and was educated at Yale University, where he majored in drama. He started his Hollywood career as an assistant in the cartoon department at Warner Brothers. In 1957, he undertook his first production role for Paramount Pictures. In 1962, he produced To Kill A Mockingbird, for which he received a Best Picture nomination in the 1963 Academy Awards. In 1969, he directed his first feature, The Sterile Cuckoo, starring Liza Minnelli.
In 1971, Pakula released the first installment of what would informally come to be known as his "paranoia trilogy". Klute, the story of a private eye's relationship with 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 similarly labyrinthine post-Watergate thriller notable for its experimental use of hypnotic imagery in a celebrated film-within-a-film sequence in which the protagonist is inducted into the mysterious Parallax Corporation. Finally, in 1976, Pakula rounded out the "trilogy" with All the President's Men, another commercial hit considered by many critics and fans to be one of the best thrillers of the 1970s. The film was based on the bestselling account of the Watergate scandal written by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
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. In later years, he largely focused on courtroom dramas, achieving commercial success with Presumed Innocent, based on the bestselling novel by Scott Turow, and The Pelican Brief, an adaptation of the John Grisham bestseller.
Pakula died in 1998 in a bizarre car accident on the Long Island Expressway in New York at the age of 70. A driver in front of him struck a metal pipe, which went through Pakula's windshield, striking him in the head and causing him to swerve off the road and into a fence, killing him instantly.