New York Times - 09/26/1988
"...The music is everywhere....A labor of love..."
Los Angeles Times - 10/14/1988
"...Few Hollywood biographical movies have shown more devotion to their subject than Clint Eastwood's BIRD....In this movie and its hot, fast bursts of bop, Charlie Parker gets a fitting elegy..."
Mojo - 12/01/2004
"[T]he adroit combination of Whitaker's understated performance and Eastwood's flashback images achieves pathos while avoiding sentimentality."
Uncut - 04/01/2006 4 stars out of 5 -- "A labour of love for director Clint Eastwood, this ambitious biopic of Charlie Parker digs a little deeper than most mainstream musical biopics..."
Sight and Sound - 04/01/2006
"[Eastwood] does full justice to Parker's extraordinary musical gifts."
Charlie "Bird" Parker had been a hero of Clint Eastwood's since childhood, and Eastwood, having been disappointed in such jazz biopics as YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN, really wanted to make a true jazz fan's movie about the music. He cast Forest Whitaker as Parker, the legendary alto sax player, and Diane Venora as Chan, Parker's wife. The film shows how Parker, a genius who changed the face of modern music, was hampered and eventually destroyed by his appetite for women, food, and drugs. The two leads do a great job giving a recognizable human face to the characters' complex relationship. With wit and warmth, BIRD tells the story in direct and honest terms, avoiding all sentimentality. Eastwood's love of Parker's music comes across in the tremendous care that he and composer Lennie Niehaus took with reconstructing it, using Parker's original solos. Eastwood and cinematographer Jack N. Green also patterned the dark, moody look of the film after old photos of musicians who used to appear in jazz magazines. Music lovers will be thrilled with the result, and movie lovers will find plenty to engage them in this moving tale of a great man battling his demons.
Director Clint Eastwood indulges his lifelong passion for jazz with this dark, brooding interpretation of the life of revolutionary bebop saxophonist Charlie "Yardbird" Parker. Starting with Parker's early years, when he used to sneak into Kansas City clubs to listen to Count Basie's band, the film moves through the many ups and downs of Parker's troubled but brilliant career--which ended all too soon. The doctor who examined Parker soon after his death estimated that the musician was somewhere between 50 and 60 years old; he was actually only 34 when he died.
Music (General) |
Substance Abuse |
Theatrical Release |
Theatrical release: October 14, 1988.
The film was shot in Kansas City and in Sacramento.
Estimated budget: $9.5 million.
Joel Oliansky's script was originally written with Richard Pryor in mind; this was when the project belonged to Columbia Pictures.
Actor Damon Whitaker, who plays the young Charlie Parker, is Forest Whitaker's brother. BIRD is his feature-film debut.
Diane Venora received the 1988 New York Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Clint Eastwood: "As far as I'm concerned, Americans don't have any original art except Western movies and jazz."
Eastwood is an accomplished pianist who has played professionally, and he used to play the flugelhorn and coronet.
The soundtrack features Charlie Parker's original solos. They were electronically isolated from the original recordings, and current jazz musicians were hired to play all the other parts--allowing the filmmakers to create a set of "new" Charlie Parker recordings 30 years after his death.
Chan Parker wrote a book about her life and marriage called LIFE IN E-FLAT.
Forest Whitaker was named Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival in 1988.
Clint Eastwood won the Golden Globe for Best Director (Drama) for the film.
At Clint Eastwood's suggestion, Warner Bros. made a trade with producer Ray Stark to secure the rights to Oliansky's script. Stark got the rights to a Jim Thompson story, which was eventually made into the film REVENGE, starring Kevin Costner.
Samuel E. Wright, who plays Dizzy Gillespie, was the voice of Sebastian the crab in THE LITTLE MERMAID.
The film gave special thanks to the Estate of Charlie Parker, Chan Parker, Red Rodney, Dizzy Gillespie, Leonard Feather, Nica de Koenigswater, and Buddy Jones.