Filmmaker Richard Donner, who helped create the modern superhero blockbuster with 1978’s “Superman” and mastered buddy comedy with the “Lethal Weapon” franchise, has passed away. He was 91 years old.

Donner died in Los Angeles on Monday, his family said through a spokesperson.

Donner rose to prominence with his feature debut, 1976’s “The Omen”. A then-unseen offer followed: $ 1 million to direct 1978’s “Superman”. Donner channeled his love for the character into directing the movie. film, repeatedly clashing with producers over the need for special effects that would convince audiences that a superhero could really fly. In the title role, Donner chose Christopher Reeve, who was associated with “Superman” for the rest of his life.

In the 21st century, the genre dominated the box office in the United States and thrived abroad. The chefs at Marvel Studios and DC Entertainment, producers of most of today’s superhero dishes, both worked for Donner in their Hollywood debut.

Steven Spielberg, who produced “The Goonies,” wrote in a statement that “Dick had such a powerful mastery of his films and was so good in so many genres. Being in his circle was like spending time with your trainer. favorite, the smartest teacher, the fiercest motivator, the most endearing friend, the most loyal ally and, of course, the greatest Goonie of all. He was a child. All heart. Everything. time. “I can’t believe he’s gone, but his hoarse, warm laugh will always stay with me.

Tributes also poured into Twitter on Monday, including from “Goonies” star Sean Astin.

“Richard Donner had the biggest and most powerful voice you can imagine,” Astin wrote. “He got attention and he laughed like no man has ever laughed before. Dick was so much fun. What I felt about him as a 12 year old was that he cared about him. I love how much he cared for him.

Director Kevin Smith tweeted that “Richard Donner made the devil a kid in The Omen, invented the modern comic book movie with Superman, and reinvented the Friends movie with Lethal Weapon. I met him last year about a project. Guy was a born storyteller. Thanks for all the movies, Dick! “

Filmmaker Edgar Wright added, “Richard Donner’s big heart and effervescent charm have shone in his films thanks to the outstanding performances of his cast, which is no small feat. You remember all the characters from Superman, Lethal Weapon, The Goonies and more because Donner knew how to capture that magic onscreen.

Wright said he had only met Donner once, but said, “He was funny, charming and full of stories (and happy to answer my geek questions).”

Donner followed “Superman” with an indie, “Inside Moves” in 1980 and “The Toy” with Richard Pryor in 1982. In 1985 he made the children’s adventure classic “The Goonies” and “Ladyhawke”, which would introduce him to his future wife, Lauren Shuler Donner.

The two married the following year. In 1993, they founded The Donners Company, which produced hits such as “Deadpool”, “The Wolverine” and the “X-Men” franchise. Inflation-adjusted, his films have generated more than $ 1 billion in box office revenue.

“Let me tell you, the director of Dick Donner truly is the sexiest man in the world,” Shuler Donner said during a film academy tribute to the director in 2017.

She said that a director’s personality is often revealed on screen.

“If you watch the Dick movies, Dick is fun, larger than life, strong, strong, with a big mushy heart,” she said. “His confidence, his fearlessness, his humor are what make people adore him and have enveloped me like a protective mantle.

“The combination of learning filmmaking from Richard Donner and falling in love with him has made me, personally and professionally, a better producer and a happier, loving person,” she continued, calling “Ladyhawke” theirs. “personal love story”.

“I am the hawk and he is the wolf,” she said.

In 1987, Donner chose Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as a pair of mismatched cops in the boyfriend-cop action film “Lethal Weapon”. The film was a success, spawning several sequels and a TV show.

“He was a master storyteller,” Gibson said in 2017. “He was humble. He had this sign above that door that said, ‘Leave your ego at the door,’ and there was no ego around. It was hard for me to get into the room, actually.

Donner followed up with Bill Murray’s 1988 hit “Scrooged” and “Lethal Weapon 2” the following year.

His other credits include “Maverick”, “Conspiracy Theory” and “Radio Flyer”.

Born Richard Donald Schwartzberg on April 24, 1930 in New York City, Donner changed his name when he decided to become an actor.

“I would have been an unemployed actor now without great director Marty Ritt,” Donner said.

He remembered Ritt telling him, “Your problem is you can’t take direction” and suggested that he continue directing instead.

“And because I was hanging out with him a bit, he said, ‘You’re my assistant on the next show,’ and that changed my life,” Donner said. “I never went back to the theater.”

He began working in television, directing episodes of “Gilligan’s Island”, “Perry Mason” and “The Twilight Zone”.

Away from the camera, Donner was known for his extraordinary kindness and generosity, covering the tuition fees of one “Goonies” star (Jeff Cohen, now entertainment lawyer) and paying for the life-saving rehabilitation of another (the actor Corey Feldman).

Donner told The Associated Press in an interview in 1985 that the young cast had helped him throughout production.

“I never had children of my own, and they have become like my family,” he said.

Cohen, Feldman, and “Lethal Weapon” star Rene Russo were among those who praised Donner for his kindness during the 2017 film’s academy tribute.

“You were lovely, funny and witty and all of that amazing (things), but what killed me was you were nice,” Russo said. “You were so nice, and that’s what makes you the sexiest man in the world.”

Along with his wife, Donner was also an avid animal advocate, rescuing dozens of dogs over the years and battling the captivity of killer whales.

Although a few of Donner’s films generated Oscar nominations, he was never nominated. But he had the opportunity to thank the academy – and his many friends and colleagues – during this tribute.

“This industry is my friend, and it’s the greatest gift in the world for me,” Donner said. “You are all my Oscar.”


Former AP Entertainment writer Sandy Cohen has compiled biographical material for this obituary.

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