Richard Donner, director of ‘Superman’, ‘The Goonies’, and ‘Lethal Weapon’ films, dead at 91

Filmmaker Richard Donner has died at 91 years old, ABC News has confirmed.

Donner, whose 1978 Superman: The Motion Picture starring Christopher Reeve, remains the gold standard for the Man of Steel in cinema, also directed ’80s classics like The Goonies and the ’90s holiday staple Scrooged, and produced movies including The Lost Boys and the original X-Men film for 20th Century Fox with his wife Lauren Shuler Donner

The 1987 buddy cop film Lethal Weapon, starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, became nearly synonymous with the Bronx, New York-born director. The film spawned three sequels — and was on track for a fourth, which was in development before his death. 

Born Richard Donald Schwartzberg, Donner got his start both on and behind the stage, before transitioning to TV, where he directed series from The Twilight Zone and The Fugitive to Gilligan’s Island. 

Donner’s first big feature success was the 1976 thriller The Omen, which led to the coveted Superman directing gig. The filmmaker’s treatment of the character — and Reeves’ powerful, yet never cynical portrayal of the hero and his alter-ego Clark Kent — remains a high water mark for the genre and the character.

Donner returned for 1981’s Superman II, but parted ways with the studio before it was completed. In 2006, the “Donner Cut” of the film was released onto DVD, to critical and fan acclaim.

Donner’s death was mourned by friends and former colleagues including Steven Spielberg, Glover, and Gibson, Variety reports. 

Spielberg remembered Donner as your “favorite coach, smartest professor, fiercest motivator, most endearing friend, staunchest ally, and — of course — the greatest Goonie of all.” He added, “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.”

For his part, Gibson commented, “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.”

Gibson added, “If we piled up all the good deeds he did, it would stretch to some uncharted place in the firmament. I will sorely miss him, with all his mischievous wit and wisdom.”

For his part, Glover said, “My heart is broken.” 

The actor added, “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.”

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