Richard Donner, 2017 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tribute to his memory Photo : Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images
Richard Donner, director of blockbuster films like Superman, The Lethal Weapon series and The Omen has passed away. Lauren Shuler Donner Donner, Donner's long-time producer partner, confirmed the news to Deadline. There has been no cause of death. He was 91.
Donner began his career as an actor and earned his first directing credits in primetime series in the 1960s and 1970s. These included Westerns such as The Rifleman or Have GunWill Travel, detective dramas Kojak (and Cannon), and early installments of Gilligans Island and Get Smart. Donner was the first of six Twilight Zone directors to take on the role. He directed Nightmare At 20,000 Feet, which featured William Shatner and a fear of flying.
His film work would reflect the versatility of Donner's TV rsum, starting with 1961's X-15. The X-15 was a dramatization of NASA's suborbital flight experiments starring Charles Bronson & Mary Tyler Moore. The film would go on to have a similar bold tagline (You have already been warned) and would eventually become Donners biggest-screen success story: The Omen with Gregory Peck, Lee Remick and Harvey Spencer Stevens, who would play the role of the future Antichrist.
Alexander Salkind, a producer, offered Donner $1million to direct Superman. This was the first feature-length, big-budget adaptation of a superhero movie. Interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 2016. Donner, a childhood fan of Man Of Steel, recalled being horrified by the first draft of the screenplay. After getting a little drunk, Donner pulled on the Superman costume that came with the script and summoned Tom Mankiewicz. He was shocked to see his friend in Clark Kent's red cape. Donner then made the fateful statement: "Make a love story." The modern superhero story was born with the help of Christopher Reeve, a Juilliard-trained actor, Margot Kidder as Lois Lane and Oscar-winning special effects. The film, which was also the most expensive ever made due to Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando's huge paydays, grossed over $300 million worldwide. Although Donner was originally hired to film Superman II and Superman II simultaneously, Donner was almost done by 1977. However, Richard Lester, A Hard Days Night director, was eventually fired. In 2006, Donner's Superman II cut was released on DVD.
Donner's career was hampered by Ladyhawke's poor box-office performance in 1985, after Donner had recovered from the Richard Pryor-Jackie Gleason comedy The Toy. (Silver lining - Shuler Donner and Donner met during Ladyhawke's production. The director was fortunate to have another adventure film, Sleepover fixture The Goonies, set for release two more months later. Donner moved to the R-rated buddy cop action of Lethal Weapon in 1987. This was the first of a series of ten-year-long films in which he was paired with Mel Gibson. Donner gave A Christmas Carol an 80s-yuppie twist with Scrooged in between that film and its sequel in 1989.
Donner started producing films by other directors during this period (often alongside Shuler Donner), such as The Lost Boys, The Free Willy movies and Any Given Sunday. Donner was an executive producer for X-Men in 2000. This helped to kickstart another revolution in superhero filmmaking.