Richard Donner, the legendary director and producer responsible for iconic projects such as the first modern superhero movie Superman, as well as The Goonies and Lethal Weapon, has passed away at the age of 91. The news of Donner's passing was announced by his wife, producer Lauren Schuler Donner, as well as his business manager. Donner reportedly passed away on Monday, and the cause of death is currently unknown.
Donner was born Richard Donald Schwartzberg on April 24, 1930, in The Bronx, New York. After initially hoping to get his start in the industry as an actor, Donner was motivated to go into the world of directing, and began helming commercials and western TV shows in the late 1950s. Donner's TV work included episodes of The Fugitive, Get Smart, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, Gilligan's Island, and Tales From the Crypt. He also directed two iconic episodes of the original run of The Twilight Zone — "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" and "From Agnes — With Love".
Donner's breakout project was 1976's The Omen, the cult classic supernatural horror film. Just two years later, Donner directed Superman: The Movie, the Christopher Reeve-starring project that is regarded as setting the blueprint for modern superhero films. Donner also participated in principal production of Superman II, before being fired from the project and replaced by Richard Lester after creative differences with the film's producers. In 2006, fans got to see Donner's original vision of the project fully realized with the release of Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut.
Donner would go on to direct hit films such as Scrooged, The Goonies, Maverick, and the Lethal Weapon series. He also founded the Donners' Company production company with Lauren, and executive produced films such as Any Given Sunday, 2000's X-Men, and 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine. He also briefly dipped his toe into the world of comic books themselves, co-writing Action Comics alongside his former assistant, Geoff Johns. Donner and Johns most recently contributed a story to the 2018 anthology Action Comics #1000.
"There are so many people that make superheroes so cynical it's depressing," Donner said in a late 2020 interview. "When they're dark and bleak and angry with themselves and the world, I don't find it entertaining. I think there's enough reality going on for that. We just got over four years of that [under President Donald Trump]. I think we crave the opposite."
"When you see it done right, by my standards, it's so fulfilling," Donner continued. "I'm very happy and proud when I see them. When it's done wrong, it's such a disappointment."
Our thoughts are with Donner's family, friends, and fans at this time.
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