Richard Donner, Director of ‘Superman,’ ‘The Goonies’ and ‘Lethal Weapon,’ Dies at 91



Director-producer Richard Donner, greatest identified for helming the “Deadly Weapon” movie collection, “The Goonies” and the unique “Superman” movie, died on Monday. He was 91.

Donner’s manufacturing firm confirmed information of his demise to Selection, although the trigger was not disclosed.

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Although not his first bigscreen effort, his large function break got here with 1976’s “The Omen,” starring Gregory Peck and Lee Remick. Thereafter, he introduced his craftsmanship to the primary “Superman.” He additionally branched out into producing (“Free Willy,” “The Misplaced Boys”), normally together with his spouse Lauren Shuler Donner — he government produced the large 2000 success “X-Males” and later the prequel “X-Males Origins: Wolverine.” However his profession was highlighted by the “Deadly Weapon” collection, starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, which elevated him to the ranks of administrators producing greater than a billion {dollars} in field workplace.

Born Richard Donald Schwartzberg within the Bronx, he attended Parker Junior Faculty after which NYU, the place he majored in enterprise and theater. Donner, who started his profession as on the opposite facet of the digicam as an actor, quickly graduated to tv directing, honing his craft via work on such collection as “Needed: Useless or Alive,” “The Twilight Zone,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and “The Fugitive.”

He studied appearing with David Alexander and Dort Clark and labored repeatedly, largely off-Broadway within the early ’50s. Whereas showing in Martin Ritt’s tv manufacturing of “Of Human Bondage,” Donner took the director’s recommendation to coronary heart. “Marty informed me I’d by no means make it as an actor as a result of I couldn’t take route,” he as soon as mentioned, “however he thought I may give it and supplied me a job as his assistant.”

Donner then bonded with documentarian George Blake, beginning as his driver and ultimately working his manner as much as directing documentaries, industrial movies and commercials. After Blake’s demise, Donner relocated to Los Angeles, the place he broke into directing for tv in 1959 with the Steve McQueen Western collection “Needed: Useless or Alive.” He subsequently helmed episodes of “Perry Mason,” “Route 66,” “The Fugitive,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” “Get Sensible,” “The Six Million Greenback Man,” “Kojak” and “The Streets of San Francisco.” He did a few of his most memorable TV work for Rod Serling on “The Twilight Zone,” particularly the 1963 episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Toes,” starring William Shatner.

Donner additionally labored for the animation firm Hanna-Barbera, directing a number of episodes of “Hazard Island,” a part of youngsters’s collection “The Banana Splits,” the place his hand-held camerawork stood out.

In 1961 he directed his first movie, the low-budget “X-15,” starring Charles Bronson. He additionally directed a few British movies, “Salt and Pepper” and “Twinky” (aka “Lola”) within the 1960s in addition to 1969’s “Baby Bride.” He broke into directing longform tv with such efforts as 1975 telepics “A Shadow within the Streets” and “Sarah T.: Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic.”


Making full use of what he had discovered on “The Twilight Zone,” Donner broke via within the function movie area with “The Omen,” a 1976 hit thriller that led to a plum task, bringing “Superman” to the bigscreen in 1978. He left the profitable movie’s sequel in an ultimately litigious dispute with the movies’ producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind. The movie was taken over by Richard Lester, although a lot of Donner’s work stays within the completed movie, albeit uncredited. In 2006, “Superman II: The Richard Donner Lower” was launched on DVD the identical day that Bryan Singer’s franchise reboot “Superman Returns” debuted on dwelling video.

Working from a script by Barry Levinson and Valerie Curtin, Donner directed one in all his smaller and extra private movies, 1980’s “Inside Strikes,” however regardless of respectful notices, it didn’t carry out nicely on the field workplace. It was adopted by Richard Pryor comedy “The Toy” in 1982.

Donner started so as to add producing to his credit, many at the side of spouse Lauren Shuler Donner, with such movies as “Omen III: The Remaining Battle” and later “The Misplaced Boys,” “Delirious,” in addition to “Demon Knight” (1995) and “Bordello of Blood,” options spawned from the HBO collection “Tales From the Crypt” that he additionally produced from 1989-91. Within the 1990s, he additionally produced the interesting “Free Willy” trilogy of kids’s movies.

Donner actually hit his stride beginning with 1982’s interval romantic journey “Ladyhawke,” adopted by “The Goonies” (from Steven Spielberg’s Amblin) and particularly the “Deadly Weapon” motion franchise, the primary entry wherein appeared in 1987. Three subsequent sequels have been all profitable, and he additionally paired with Gibson for “Maverick” and “Conspiracy Idea.”

He continued within the 1990s as a reliable mainstream director-producer through such movies as “Scrooged,” starring Invoice Murray, and “Assassins,” with Sylvester Stallone. He additionally exec produced Oliver Stone’s 1999 NFL drama “Any Given Sunday.”

Donner additionally helmed and produced the time-travel story “Timeline” in 2003, and in 2006, the Bruce Willis actioner “16 Blocks.” He was exec producer of director Singer’s “X-Males,” which grossed $297 million worldwide in 2000, and its profitable 2009 prequel, “X-Males Origins: Wolverine,” which took $379 million worldwide.

He’s survived by Shuler Donner, whom he married in 1986.

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