Richard Donner, ‘Superman’ and ‘Lethal Weapon’ Director, Dead at 91
By Zach Seemayer
Veteran filmmaker and TV director Richard Donner has died. He was 91.
Donner died on Monday, according to multiplereports. His death was confirmed to Variety by his production company, although no cause of death was released.
Donner was born on April 24, 1930, in the Bronx. He began his career with hopes of becoming an actor, but soon found work directing commercials before moving on to direct TV shows.
He helmed episodes of several iconic Western series, before directing six episodes of The Twilight Zone in 1963-64, including arguably the series' most famous episode, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet."
After helming a few small films, Donner's break-through into directing for the big screen came in 1976 when he helmed the iconic horror film The Omen, which utilized a $2 million budget but went on to become one of the highest grossing films of the year.
Donner then went on to change the face of cinema permanently in 1978 when he directed one of the first big-budget super hero tentpole films, Superman, starring Christopher Reeves as the famous Man of Steel.
The acclaimed filmmaker went on to direct many films that have earned classic and cult classic status, including 1987's Lethal Weapon -- as well as all three of the Lethal Weapon sequels -- as well as The Goonies, Scrooged, and Maverick, among several others.
Upon news of Donner's death, both Lethal Weapon co-stars Danny Glover and Mel Gibson released tributes expressing their condolences and appreciation for the legendary filmmaker.
"My heart is broken," Glover said in a statement published by Deadline. "Working with Dick Donner, Mel Gibson and the Lethal Weapon team was one of the proudest moments of my career."
"I will forever be grateful to him for that Dick genuinely cared about me, my life and my family," continued Glover, who played Sergeant Roger Murtaugh in the Lethal Weapon series -- a role Glover is perhaps best known for in his career. "We were friends and loved each other far beyond collaborating for the screen and the success that the Lethal Weapon franchise brought us. I will so greatly miss him."
Gibson -- who starred in the franchise as Murtaugh's partner Martin Riggs -- recalled the director in a statement to Deadline, sharing, "Donner! My friend, my mentor. Oh, the things I learned from him! He undercut his own talent and greatness with a huge chunk of humility referring to himself as ‘merely a traffic cop.’ He left his ego at the door and required that of others."
"He was magnanimous of heart and soul, which he liberally gave to all who knew him. If we piled up all the good deeds he did, it would stretch to some uncharted place in the firmament," Gibson added. "I will sorely miss him, with all his mischievous wit and wisdom."
Fellow director Steven Spielberg remembered Donner in a touching tribute, sharing, "Dick had such a powerful command of his movies, and was so gifted across so many genres."
"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," Spielberg said in a statement to Variety. "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."
Donner is survived by his wife of 35 years, Lauren Shuler Donner.