Veteran filmmaker Richard Donner, known for directing blockbusters and classic films such as "Superman," "The Goonies," and the "Lethal Weapon" trilogy, has died. He was 91 years old. Donner died on Monday, according to his producer-wife Lauren Schuler Donner. She did not, however, divulge the cause of his death.
Donner, the actual name Richard Donald Schwartzberg, was born in New York in 1931 to Jewish parents. Early in his career, Donner intended to be an actor but discovered his true calling as a director. In his early career, he directed episodes of television series such as "The Rifleman," "The Twilight Zone," "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.", "Gilligan's Island," and "Perry Mason."
Donner made his feature directing debut with "X-15" in 1961, but his major break came 15 years later, in 1976, when he helmed the horror film "The Omen." The picture, which starred Gregory Peck, David Warner, and Lee Remick, was a box office success and was nominated for two Academy Awards, winning one.
He gained even more recognition as the director of 1978"s "Superman," which starred Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel with Margot Kidder, Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, and Ned Beatty. The Warner Bros. movie cost a staggering USD 55 million to produce and ended up grossing more than USD 300 million at the worldwide box office.
The first movie tentpole based on a superhero comic character, "Superman" also got nominated for three Academy Awards. It won a special Academy Award for its visual effects.
Despite the overwhelming success of "Superman", Donner was fired from the film's sequel due to his disputes with producers. Richard Lester took over, though much of Donner’s work remains in the finished film.
In 2006, "Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut" was released on DVD the same day that Bryan Singer’s franchise reboot “Superman Returns” debuted on home video.
Donner was also known for directing the 1985 adventure comedy "The Goonies".
Based on a story by filmmaker Steven Spielberg and written by Chris Columbus, "The Goonies" was a surprise hit and achieved cult status over the years.
In the 1980s, Donner also started the blockbuster action franchise "Lethal Weapon", featuring rising Hollywood stars Mel Gibson and Danny Glover.
Donner directed all four of the "Lethal Weapon" movies in an 11-year span. The movies grossed more than USD 900 million globally.
Donner and Gibson also teamed up for "Maverick" (1994) and "Conspiracy Theory" in 1997.
His directing credits also include the 1988 Christmas movie "Scrooged", the drama "Inside Moves" and 1992’s coming-of-age drama "Radio Flyer".
In the wake of the news of Donner's death, prominent Hollywood personalities, including Spielberg, Gibson, and "The Goonies" star Sean Astin paid their tributes.
In a statement, Spielberg said, "Dick had such a powerful command of his movies, and was so gifted across so many genres. Being in his circle was akin to hanging out with your favourite coach, smartest professor, fiercest motivator, most endearing friend, staunchest ally, and — of course — the greatest 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 stay with me always," he wrote.
Gibson, in a statement to Deadline, remembered Donner as his "friend" and "mentor", who taught him many things in life.
"He undercut his own talent and greatness with a huge chunk of humility referring to himself as ''merely a traffic cop''. He left his ego at the door and required that of others. He was magnanimous of heart and soul, which he liberally gave to all who knew him.
"If we piled up all the good deeds he did, it would stretch to some uncharted place in the firmament. I will sorely miss him, with all his mischievous wit and wisdom," Gibson said.
Astin wrote on Twitter that Donner had the "biggest, boomiest voice" one could imagine.
"He commanded attention and he laughed like no man has ever laughed before. Dick was so much fun. What I perceived in him, as a 12-year-old kid, is that he cared. I love how much he cared," he added.
Actor-filmmaker Ben Stiller remembered Donner as someone who "made big-time movies".
"Movies that remain in our consciousness. That never has been and never is easy. Always admired his work," he added.
Filmmaker James Mangold tweeted, "James Mangold wrote, “To my mind, this word captures the first priority and goal of a film director, regardless of genre or style. And Dick Donner achieved it time and time again, in all sorts of films. It’s not easy. It takes artistry. RIP Richard Donner."
Filmmaker Edgar Wright noted that the audiences remember their favourite characters from "Superman", "Lethal Weapon" and "The Goonies" because Donner "knew how to capture that magic onscreen".
"I only met Richard once and he was funny, charming and so full of stories (and happy to indulge my geeky questions). I'm sad I'll never get to meet him again. RIP," he added.
Donner was married to Lauren Shuler Donner. The couple's production company The Donners’ Company was known for backing hits like " X-Men" and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine".