Legendary American filmmaker Richard Donner has passed away at the age of 91, his wife, producer Lauren Shuler Donner, has announced today.
Born in the Bronx in 1930, Donner began his career directing commercials before switching to television in the late 1950s, working on TV dramas such as Wanted: Dead or Alive, The Fugitive, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Tales from the Crypt and The Twilight Zone (including the classic William Shatner-led episode ‘Nightmare at 20,000 Feet).
However, it was on the big screen where Donner would enjoy monumental success, becoming responsible for some of the most iconic movies of the 1970s and 1980s. He directed his first feature X-15 in 1961, but his big break came in 1976 with the horror classic The Omen, which then opened the door for Donner to make audiences believe Christopher Reeve could fly with 1978’s seminal comic book adaptation Superman: The Movie.
Despite the huge critical and commercial success of Superman – and the fact that Donner had already shot most of the sequel – he found himself fired from Superman II, with Richard Lester coming in to oversee reshoots. His version of Superman II would remained locked in Warner Bros.’ vault until 2006, when he was able to oversee the completion and release of Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut.
Following his time on Superman, Donner would go on to direct 80s classics The Goonies, Lethal Weapon and Scrooged, returning for all three Lethal Weapon sequel, as well as the likes of Maverick (1994), Assassins (1995) and Conspiracy Theory (1997). His final directing credit came with 2006’s 16 Blocks, although he had been planning for several years to reunite with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover for Lethal Finale, a project that will now sadly go unmade.