Richard Donner, Jewish Director Behind ‘Superman,’ ‘The Goonies’ and ‘Lethal Weapon,’ Dies at Age 91
Acclaimed director and producer Richard Donner died on Monday at the age of 91, according to his wife, producer Lauren Schuler-Donner, and his business manager. The cause of death was not revealed.
The Jewish filmmaker’s credits include the 1978 classic “Superman” starring Christopher Reeve, which grossed more than $300 million at the global box office, as well as “The Goonies” and all four films in the Mel Gibson-Danny Glover cop franchise “Lethal Weapon.” The series grossed more than $900 million globally.
Donner, who was born in the Bronx, started his career directing a long list of television shows in the ’60s, including “Route 66,” “The Rifleman,” “The Twilight Zone,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “Perry Mason” and “The Wild Wild West,” Deadline reported. His debut film was “X-15″ in 1961 with Charles Bronson and Mary Tyler Moore, followed by the 1968 comedy “Salt & Pepper,” starring Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford, and 1969’s “Lola” with Charles Bronson. He turned to directing films full time with “The Omen” in 1976.
“Dick had such a powerful command of his movies, and was so gifted across so many genres,” director Steven Spielberg said in a statement following Donner’s death. “Being in his circle was akin to hanging out with your favorite coach, smartest professor, fiercest motivator, most endearing friend, staunchest ally, and — of course — the greatest Goonie of all. He was all kid. All heart. All the time. I can’t believe he’s gone, but his husky, hearty, laugh will stay with me always.”
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige called Donner his mentor and said the late filmmaker made him “believe that comic characters could be brought to life on the big screen.”
“The Goonies” star Sean Astin also paid tribute to Donner in a tweet, writing: “Richard Donner had the biggest, boomiest voice you could imagine. He commanded attention and he laughed like no man has ever laughed before. Dick was so much fun. What I perceived in him, as a 12 year old kid, is that he cared. I love how much he cared.” He also quoted a famous line from the film: “Goonies Never Say Die.”
Donner’s other directing credits include 1994’s “Maverick”; 1997’s “Conspiracy Theory” ; the 1988 Christmas film “Scrooged” with Bill Murray; and 1992’s “Radio Flyer.” His final project as a director was 2006’s action film “16 Blocks” starring Bruce Willis. Donner and his wife produced dozens of films through the The Donners’ Company, including the “X-Men” franchise and 1993’s “Free Willy.”