Richard Donner, the director of such classics as Superman, The Goonies, and Lethal Weapon, has sadly passed away at the age of 91. The news comes via his wife Lauren Shuler Donner, who was also his business manager. One of the most influential figures in 1970s and 1980s cinema, Donner was still actively working on new pictures into his 90s, and most recently directed 2016’s 16 Blocks.
Born as Ronald Donald Schwartzberg in the Bronx in 1930, Donner’s father owned a furniture manufacturing concern. Although he began as an actor, Donner soon moved into directing after becoming an assistant to Martin Ritt, and later worked at turning out commercials at prolific television production company Desilu. During the 1950s and into the 1960s, the young Donner was a fixture of network shows, with credits including The Rifleman, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and the original version of The Twilight Zone.
However, it took the thirtysomething filmmaker some time to regularly work in movies, with his first feature, X-15, released in 1961, and follow-up Salt and Pepper in 1968. In the late 1970s, Donner’s career took off with the commercial and critical success of The Omen in 1976, before the landmark premiere of 1978’s Superman. The Christopher Reeve-starring film remains among the best superhero films, and paved the way for the big-budget franchises of the modern era.
Although Donner was fired from Superman II, having shot much of the sequel, he would eventually release a director’s cut of his work in 2006. Through the 1980s and 1990s, the director’s output included cult classic The Goonies and the highly successful Lethal Weapon franchise. Despite several flops, he continued to maintain a high profile role as a producer, shepherding the Tales from the Crypt property, and the launch of the X-Men at Fox.
Over the last few years, Richard Donner appeared to be defying his age by developing multiple projects, including a now-unlikely The Goonies 2, and the aforementioned Lethal Weapon 5. It’s a shame, then, that he was unable to achieve his long-held aim to wrap up the series with a fifth instalment, capping off a career that spanned the 1950s to the present, and included some of Hollywood’s biggest hits.