Superman, Lethal Weapon Director Richard Donner Dies

Richard Donner was 91
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 5, 2021 5:06 PM CDT
Superman , Lethal Weapon Director Richard Donner Dies
Richard Donner arrives at a tribute event in his honor on June 7, 2017, in Beverly Hills, Calif.   (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

Filmmaker Richard Donner, who helped create the modern superhero blockbuster with 1978’s Superman and mastered the buddy comedy with the Lethal Weapon franchise, has died. He was 91. Lauren Shuler Donner, his wife and producing partner, told Deadline that Donner died Monday. After years working as a TV director, Donner gained fame with his breakthrough feature film, 1976’s The Omen. A then-unheard-of offer followed: $1 million to direct Superman. Donner channeled his love of the character into making the film, repeatedly facing off with producers over the need for special effects that would convince the audience that a superhero could really fly. Donner's other movies included The Goonies and Scrooged. He married Lauren in 1986 and their company has produced hits including Deadpool and the X-Men franchise

Born Richard Donald Schwartzberg on April 24, 1930, in New York City, Donner changed his name when he set out to become an actor, the AP reports. "I would have been an out-of-work actor now if it wouldn’t have been for the great director Marty Ritt," Donner once said. He recalled Ritt telling him, "Your problem is you can’t take direction," and suggesting he pursue directing instead. "And because I’d been hanging with him a little bit, he said, 'You're my assistant on the next show,’ and that turned my life around," Donner said. Away from the camera, Donner was known for his extraordinary kindness and generosity, covering college tuition for one Goonies star—Jeff Cohen, now an entertainment attorney—and paying for life-saving rehab for another, Corey Feldman. Along with his wife, Donner was also a passionate animal advocate, rescuing dozens of dogs over the years and fighting against the captivity of killer whales.

(More Richard Donner stories.)

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