The director’s death on Monday was confirmed by his wife Lauren Schuler Donner, who is also a film producer. She did not reveal the cause, according to Deadline.
Born in the Bronx in 1930, Donner began his career in television in the 1950s. After a brief stint as an actor, he later became a production assistant and eventually a director, going on to direct episodes for popular shows including ‘The Rifleman,’ ‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘Gilligan’s Island.’
He made his debut as a film director with 1961’s ‘X-15’ starring Charles Bronson and Mary Tyler Moore, though only earned major recognition after ‘The Omen’ in 1976 – still regarded as a horror classic. That was followed by a string of blockbusters over the next decade, among them ‘Superman’ (1978) ‘The Goonies’ (1985) and ‘Lethal Weapon’ (1987). The latter film would give rise to three sequels, all directed by Donner, which grossed nearly $1 billion at the box office.
Though Donner’s name has not appeared on many projects since his ‘16 Blocks’ in 2006, a who’s-who of Hollywood lined up to note his passing on Monday, including ‘Lethal Weapon’ star Danny Glover and directing legend Steven Spielberg, who wrote the story on which ‘The Goonies’ was based.
“My heart is broken. Working with Dick Donner, Mel Gibson and the Lethal Weapon Team was one of the proudest moments of my career,” Glover said. “We were friends and loved each other far beyond collaborating for the screen.”
Acclaimed directors Zack Snyder, Kevin Smith, Scott Derrickson and Edgar Wright, as well as other actors, producers and film critics, also paid tribute to Donner.
“Richard Donner made the devil a child in The Omen, invented the modern day comic book movie with Superman, and reinvented the buddy cop movie with Lethal Weapon. I got to meet with him last year about a project. Guy was a natural born storyteller. Thanks for all the flicks, Dick!” said Kevin Smith of Jay and Silent Bob fame.
‘Goonies’ star Sean Astin also weighed in, remembering Donner as having “the biggest, boomiest voice you could imagine,” also noting that he “commanded attention and he laughed like no man has ever laughed before.”
Though Donner never managed to collect an Oscar, some of his films were nominated, while ‘Superman’ took home a special Academy Award for its groundbreaking use of visual effects. The director was also honored with a tribute at the 2017 Academy Awards, where he told colleagues “This industry is my friend, and it’s been the greatest gift in the world to me,” adding “You guys are all my Oscar.”
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