Richard Donner, the director and producer behind such films as The Goonies and Superman, has died at the age of 91.
Donner’s production company confirmed the news to Variety on Monday. A cause of death hasn’t been announced.
Credited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with the ability to “leap movie genres with a single bound”, Donner had “carved his own path in Hollywood since he burst out of the television scene for a career spanning over five decades”, the organisation noted in a 2017 tribute.
Among his best-known films as director were also the Lethal Weapon film series, the 1976 horror film The Omen, and the 1988 Christmas comedy Scrooged.
Having begun his career on the television side, Donner, a native of the Bronx in New York, found a breakout success in The Omen, an American-British collaboration starring Gregory Peck as Robert Thorn, the father of a child who turns out to be the Antichrist.
Two years after The Omen’s release, Donner unveiled Superman starring Christopher Reeve as the title superhero, Marlon Brando as Jor-El, and Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards, in the Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Sound categories.
For The Goonies, released in 1985, Donner acted as director as well as producer, sharing the latter duties with Harvey Bernhard. The adventure comedy film, which tells the story of a group of children hunting for a hidden treasure, has become a cult classic with a strong fan following.
Donner kept combining directing and producing duties throughout the rest of his career, including on the Lethal Weapon film series, of which he directed four instalments between 1987 and 1998. Mel Gibson, who starred as Martin Riggs alongside Danny Glover’s Roger Murtaugh, told Deadline in a statement following the news of Donner’s death: “Donner! My friend, my mentor. Oh, the things I learned from him! ... 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.”
Donner’s final credit as a movie director came with the 2006 action thriller 16 Blocks, starring Bruce Willis, Mos Def, and David Morse.
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Director Edgar Wright was among those who paid tribute to Donner on Monday, writing on Twitter: “Richard Donner's big heart and effervescent charm shone in his movies through the remarkable performances of his cast, which is no mean feat. You remember all the characters in Superman, Lethal Weapon, The Goonies & more, because Donner knew how to capture that magic onscreen.”
Comic book writer Dan Slott tweeted: “Richard Donner's Superman is the DNA, the fundamental building block, that all good super hero movies have been built from. It was the earnest leap of faith, the single bound, that made us all believe that a man could fly.”
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