by Kenny Hemphill
In 2015, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Alan Parker revealed that he was hanging up his director's chair. "Directors do not improve with age," he explained of his decision. "They repeat themselves. And while there are exceptions, their work generally does not get any better. This is the reason why I have decided not to make any more films."
Fortunately for audiences, Parker created a stream of critically acclaimed movies throughout his career—including the soul music-fueled The Commitments, which was released 25 years ago today. Here's a look back at the Oscar-nominated hit.
1. MUSICAL ABILITY WAS MORE IMPORTANT TO ALAN PARKER THAN ACTING EXPERIENCE.
Alan Parker cast mostly unknown actors in The Commitments, and judged potential cast members on their ability as musicians, as well as how they read the script. During auditions, he listened to them play first, before deciding whether to have them read. "I didn't want to cheat the music, so obviously I had to look for musicians," Parker told The New York Times. "Ultimately, they were cast to be pretty close to the kinds of personalities they already had, so they're not playing roles outside of themselves."
2. THE COMMITMENTS SPAWNED THE CORRS.
All four members of The Corrs had small parts in The Commitments, which was the first time they'd worked together. The Commitments's music coordinator, John Hughes (not that one), became The Corrs' manager. Alan Parker later cast Andrea Corr in Evita.
3. THE SKATEBOARDER HAD A LINK TO U2.
Unlike most of the rest of the cast, Peter Rowen—the young man seen skateboarding outside Jimmy's window when the band is recruiting new members—had been in front of a camera on a professional basis before. He was the boy pictured on the front of U2's Boy and War albums.
4. ANDREW STRONG AUDITIONED BY ACCIDENT.
The Commitments's 16-year-old front man, whose voice dominates the soundtrack, only went along to the audition because the producers wanted his dad, Irish soul singer Rob Strong, to audition.
5. IT'S LITTERED WITH REFERENCES TO OTHER ALAN PARKER MOVIES.
On a train, Jimmy is asked if he has brought Mississippi Burning with him. In another scene, a character mocks the theme song from the movie Fame. In another nod to a Parker film, a poster from 1984's Birdy is visible in the video store in The Commitments.
6. ONLY ONE ACTOR DIDN'T PLAY HIS OWN INSTRUMENT.
Parker's rule about using real musicians in The Commitments had one exception: Having failed to land Van Morrison for the part of trumpet player Joey "The Lips" Fagan, Parker hired stage actor Johnny Murphy instead. Murphy was the only member of the cast who didn't play his own instrument.
7. GLEN HANSARD HAD SOME REGRETS ABOUT TAKING THE ROLE.
Glen Hansard, who played Outspan Foster in the film (and won an Oscar in 2008 for Best Original Song for Once, in which he also co-starred) came to have some regrets about taking the role, which he believed detracted from his music career with his band The Frames. In 2007, he clarified his opinion of the film. "I don’t regret doing it," he told Entertainment Weekly. "It was brilliant. I just regretted having to talk about it forever. It overshadowed my own band. We got to the States and it turned into this big indie film. I remember on my first day in America to promote it, I got out of a taxi in New York, where it had been raining, and there was a full-page ad for The Commitments floating in a puddle. And I remember thinking to myself, 'There’s a life moment. Don’t take this too seriously.' I spent the next 10 years in interviews talking about The Commitments and not talking about the band I was in."
8. HANSARD WASN'T THE ONLY MEMBER OF THE FRAMES TO APPEAR IN THE FILM.
Hansard wasn't the only member of The Frames to appear in The Commitments. Keyboard player Colm Mac Con Iomaire had a cameo role. In another nod to the band, Commitments star Bronagh Gallagher wore a Frames T-shirt when she popped up in Pulp Fiction.
9. PARKER MADE A CAMEO.
Director Alan Parker makes an appearance at the end of the movie as a producer for record company Eejit Records, which tries to sign the band.
10. IT FOUND NEW LIFE ON THE STAGE.
In 2013, audiences got another chance to experience The Commitments—this time live. It premiered on the West End in 2013 and is still touring today.