‘Superman’ and ‘Lethal Weapon’ director Richard Donner dies at 91

Richard Donner, the tough, single-minded but fickle film director who made Christopher Reeve’s Superman Fly, Mel Gibson’s neurotic detective and the pirate-adoring young stars of “The Goonies,” died Monday. He was 91 years old.

His production company and his wife and production partner Lauren Shuler Donner confirmed the death with Hollywood Trade Publications. He did not say where he died or the reason for it.

Mr Donner was in his late 40s when he made his first blockbuster, “Superman“Reviving a Comic-Book Hero Who Hasn’t Been Seen on Screen Since the 1950s” Doordarshan Series “The Adventures of Superman.” The film debuted in 1978, with Mr. Reeve, an unknown relative at the time, introduced as the Man of Steel and some cutting-edge special effects.

“If the audience didn’t believe he was flying, I didn’t have a movie,” Mr Donner told Variety in 1997.

That megahit was followed by “Inside Moves” (1980), a play about a man crippled in a failed suicide attempt (Janet Muslin wrote in The New York Times that Mr Donner directed it “with a surprising gentleness”. was); “The Toy” (1982) with Richard Pryor, whose character hires himself to play a spoiled rich kid; “The Goonies” (1987), about unloved children on a treasure hunt; The first of four “Lethal Weapon” films (also 1987) starring Mr. Gibson and Danny Glover; and “screwed(1988), an irreverent take on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” starring Bill Murray.

Mr Donner attributed the “astonishing success of”lethal Weapon“For his clean portrayal of violence.

In a 1987 interview with The Times, he said, “I prefer to turn my head in mystery, not in disgust.” “Of course, there were a lot of deaths, but they died like they died in Western countries. They were gunned down; they weren’t fragmented.”

He also admitted that he stole some fighting moves from a western: “Red River” (1948), which starred John Wayne.

Mr Donner always said that he was hired for “Goonies” because Steven Spielberg, who produced the film, told him, “You’re a bigger kid than me.” But working with real kids (including Sean Astin at 14 and Josh Brolin, barely 17) was a mixed blessing.

“The annoying thing was the lack of discipline,” Mr Donner told Yahoo Entertainment in 2015. “And that was great too, because it meant they weren’t professionals. What came out of them was instinct.”

In a statement on Monday, Mr. Spielberg said: “Dick had such a powerful command of his films, and was gifted in so many genres. To be in his circle is your favorite coach, smartest professor, furious motivator, cutest.” Friends, staunch collaborators, and – of course – the greatest of all it was like hanging out with Gunnie. He was all kid. All his heart. All the time.”

Richard Donald Schwartzberg was born on April 24, 1930, in the Bronx, the younger of two children Fred and Hattie (Horowitz) Schwartzberg. His father was a Russian Jewish immigrant who worked in his father’s furniture business; His mother, a daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants, worked as a secretary before having children.

Richard became fascinated by the film when he and his sister would visit their grandfather’s movie theater in Brooklyn. But he had no specific career ambitions, Mr Donner said in a 2006 Archive of American Television Video Interview. He grew up in the Bronx and Mount Vernon, NY, and joined the Navy in his teens.

His first real fascination for show trade came with his summer job parking cars and working in a summer theater. Because his father wanted him to study business, he attended night school at New York University, but dropped out after two years.

He got a few acting jobs in commercials and eventually won a small part in the 1950–51 anthology series.Somerset Maugham TV TheaterThe episode’s director, Martin Ritt (who built a successful career directing films such as “Hood,” “Sounder” and “Norma Rae,” didn’t care about the young man’s attitude and suggested a “You don’t direction” “You have to be a director.”

Mr Donor (he took his stage name from the infamous Donner Pass massacre, given his centenary at the time, and because Donner sounded like his middle name) continued to advertise and helped found a commercial production company, which he called And his partner later sold it to Filmways. . He got his big chance to direct the prime-time series TV in 1960, an episode of the western “Wanted: Dead or Alive” starring Steve McQueen.

He elbowed the stars from the start. One of her first assignments was golden-age-of-Hollywood star Claudette Colbert, a 1960 episode of “Zane Gray Theater”. It was one of six “Twilight Zone” episodes directed by him.Nightmare 20,000 Feet,” in which William Shatner played a frightened airline passenger who sees a gremlin on the wing outside his window.

Donner’s first two attempts at film made a big splash, but he directed big names: Charles Bronson in “X-15”, a 1961 drama about a test pilot, and Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Pepper in Lawford’s “Salt End,” a 1968 comedy crime thriller.

The first Richard Donner film that made headlines was “Prognostic(1976), about a cold-eyed little boy who is secretly the Antichrist. Vincent Canby described Mr Donner in The Times as “a television director who has a wonderful way of dismissing any small detail that might give some semblance of conviction to the proceedings.” But “The Omen” went on to become the fifth highest-grossing film of the year; Soon its director was offered “Superman”, which did even better financially. It was overtaken only by “Greece” at the box office in 1978.

Mr. Donner directed Mr. Gibson in two high-profile films in the 1990s: “Maverick” (1994), a comic western with Jodie Foster; and “Conspiracy Theory” (1997), an action thriller about a mad cabdriver with Julia Roberts. He produced and directed episodes of HBO’s “Tales from the Crypt” in the early ’90s.

The last “Lethal Weapon” film was in 1998. Mr. Donner’s last film, “16 Blocks”, was a crime drama starring Bruce Willis in 2006.

He met Ms. Schuler when he hired her for the 1985 fantasy “Ladyhawk”; They married in 1986. The couple ultimately chose not to work together because it affected their relationship, Mr Donner said. “I’m a 200-pound gorilla,” he explained. “He’s a 300-pound gorilla.”

But his production company, the Donors Company, which was founded in 1993, has been behind such lucrative hits as “Deadpool,” “The Wolverine” and the “X-Men” franchise. (Full information about his survivors was not immediately available.)

Like Alfred Hitchcock, Mr. Donner enjoyed making silent cameo appearances in his projects; He was, among other things, a riverboat card dealer in “Maverick”, a police officer in “The Goonies”, and a passerby in “Superman”.

But when asked in an Archive of American Television interview how he wanted to be remembered, he was immaculate. “As a good man who lived a long life and had a good time and always had that woman behind him pushing him,” he said. His only claim: “I’m very good at meeting a schedule and budget.”

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