Richard Donner Dies: ‘Superman’, ‘Lethal Weapon’ And ‘The Goonies’ Director Was 91

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Richard Donner, the prolific Hollywood director and producer whose helming credits include a number of the foremost iconic movies of the 1970s and ’80s including the Christopher Reeve-starring Superman, The Goonies, and therefore the Mel Gibson-Danny Glover buddy cop series Lethal Weapon, has died. He was 91. Donner gave up the ghost Monday, consistent with his wife, the producer Lauren Schuler Donner, and his business manager. No explanation for death has been revealed. The Bronx-born Donner, a genial man with a booming voice, started his career directing for television. His TV credits include a laundry list of staple shows from the ’60s including Route 66, The Rifleman, The Twilight Zone, the person From U.N.C.L.E., Gilligan’s Island, Perry Mason, and therefore the Wild Wild West .

His debut feature X-15 in 1961 with Charles Bronson (and a young Mary Tyler Moore) was followed by the 1968 crime comedy Salt & Pepper starring Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford, and 1969’s Lola with Charles Bronson and Susan George. He segued to films full time with 1976’s spooky The Omen. That led to 1978’s Superman, the first superhero movie that starred Reeve because of the Man of Steel alongside Margot Kidder, Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, and Ned Beatty. The Warner Bros blockbuster with a budget of about $55 million grossed quite $300 million at the worldwide box office. the primary movie tentpole supported a superhero comic character, it scored three Oscar nominations and won a special Academy Award for its visual effects. It also cast the die for the superhero franchise space now dominated by the Marvel Cinematic Universe and therefore the DC Universe of films. A dispute with the producers famously resulted in Donner taking his name off directing Superman II when Richard Lester was brought in after Donner had shot the bulk of the movie; a director’s cut of the film with many of the excised Donner-directed scenes was released in 2006.

By that point, however, Donner had moved on to other blockbuster successes in only about every genre, directing Jackie Gleason and Richard Pryor in the comedy The Toy (1982), and in 1985 helming both the medieval period adventure Ladyhawke and therefore the seminal kids’ adventure pic The Goonies. That pic, a few groups of friends search for treasure and are available aged in coastal Astoria, OR, had a script penned by Chris Columbus supported a story by Spielberg. “Dick had such a strong command of his movies, and was so gifted across numerous genres,” Spielberg said during a statement today on hearing of Donner’s death. “Being in his circle was like hanging out together with your favorite coach, smartest professor, fiercest motivator, loveliest friend, staunchest ally, and — in fact — the best Goonie of all. He was all kid. All heart. All the time. I can’t believe he’s gone, but his husky, hearty, laugh will stick with me always.”

Those mid-’80s movies were followed by another franchise-launching blockbuster at Warner Bros, 1987’s Lethal Weapon. The film included a task that turned Mad Max star Gibson into a worldwide superstar. Donner directed all four of the Lethal Weapon movies in an 11-year span. They grossed quite $900 million globally. Donner and Gibson would reteam as director and star within the movies Maverick (1994) and Conspiracy Theory (1997). His directing credits also include the 1988 Christmas staple Scrooged with Bill Murray; the 1980 drama Inside Moves with John Savage and David Morse co-written by Barry Levinson; and 1992’s coming-of-age drama Radio Flyer. Donner’s final film as a director was 2006’s actioner 16 Blocks starring Bruce Willis (and a reunion with Morse), the newest during a line of action stars the director worked thereupon included Sylvester Stallone (Assassins), Gerard Butler, and Paul Walker (Timeline) and in fact Gibson.

Donner and his producer-wife Lauren Schuler Donner produced dozens of films under their The Donners’ Company production banner including the X-Men franchise (Lauren Schuler Donner produced; Richard Donner was an EP) that has spawned an interesting 13 films over a two-decade span at 20th Century Fox/20th Century Studios, including introducing the planet to Ryan Reynolds’ smart-aleck Deadpool. the newest pic within the X-Men series, The New Mutants, bowed in August 2020. In total, those films grossed nearly $2.5 billion globally. The duo also produced 1993’s, Free Willy. That modestly-budgeted feel-good film went on to form $153 million globally.

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