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Richard Donner, acclaimed director of ‘Superman’ and ‘The Goonies,’ dies at 91

By Maria Pamela Reyes Published Jul 06, 2021 3:23 pm

Richard Donner, the Hollywood director who shaped a generation of action-adventure films, gave life to Christopher Reeve’s Superman, and created the iconic adorable kid-pirate film, The Goonies, among others, has died at the prime age of 91. 

His wife, Lauren Shuler Donnor, their own company, The Donners’ Company, along with Warner Bros. announced his passing on Monday. The cause of death has yet to be announced as of this writing.

Donner first dawned the big screen during the 1970s, but before that, he started his humble career in television when he convinced Steven McQueen to let him direct an episode of CBS Western Wanted: Dead or Alive. He later on wrote a few episodes for another CBS show called Twilight Zone during its 1963-1964 season. 

His big break in film wasn’t until The Omen (1976), a supernatural horror film that starred Gregory Peck, David Warner, and Lee Remick, which was the 5th highest grossing movie in 1976. 

This led him to direct Superman, the original superhero film that had Christopher Reeve playing Clark Kent aka the Man of Steel. Also featured in the film were Margot Kidder, Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman and Ned Beatty. Superman was one of Warner Bros’s biggest box office hits. It managed to secure three Oscar nominations and won for special effects.  However, on the second installment of the film, Donner had disputes with the producers which led to him removing his name from the Superman II credits even though he had already shot some parts of the film.

Nevertheless, Donner moved on to create more blockbuster hits such as The Toy (1982), The Goonies (1985), Bill Murray’s Scrooged (1988), and the classic action franchise Lethal Weapon (1987) that stars Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. 

Later in his career, Donner was also a producer for the early 2000s X-Men films and Free Willy.

Directors and celebrities in the industry have expressed their appreciation and condolences towards Richard Donner’s death. 

Justice League’s director, Zack Snyder thanks Donner for making him “believe.”

Steven Spielberg, who wrote The Goonies and a good friend of Donner said, “Dick had such a powerful command of his movies, and was so gifted across so many genres.”

Director Edward Wright, known for his directing and writing works for Scott Pilgrim vs The World and Baby Driver wrote a Twitter thread stating that he only met Donner once who gladly indulged Wright’s geeky questions and that, “I'm sad I'll never get to meet him again. RIP.”

The Goonies stars, Sean Astin and Corey Feldman, who were kids when the film was shot and released, also paid tribute to the beloved director.

"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," Sean Astin said.

With a heavy heart, Feldman honored Donner in a Twitter thread saying that he was a dear friend, a mentor, and the closest thing he had to a father. 

(Images via The Academy of Motion Arts and Pictures and Warner Bros.)