Richard Donner was an American director and producer of film and television and occasional comic-book writer. Richard passed away on Monday, his wife, the film producer Lauren Shuler Donner told the deadline.
Richard Donner Bio
Richard Donner was born Richard Donald Schwartzberg; April 24, 1930. He was born in the Bronx to Jewish Parents Hattie and Fred Schwartzberg. His father owned a small furniture manufacturing business. He had a sister, Joan.
Richard Donner Career
Initially, Donner wanted to develop a career as an actor. He gained a bit part in a TV show directed by Martin Ritt, who encouraged Donner to become a director instead. Ritt hired Donner as his assistant. According to the deadline, his TV credits include a laundry list of staple shows from the ’60s including Route 66, The Rifleman, The Twilight Zone, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Gilligan’s Island, Perry Mason, and The Wild Wild West. His debut feature X-15 in 1961 with Charles Bronson (and a young Mary Tyler Moore) was followed by the 1968 crime comedy Salt & Pepper starring Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford, and 1969’s Lola with Charles Bronson and Susan George. He segued to films full time with 1976’s spooky The Omen.
That led to 1978’s Superman, the original superhero movie that starred Reeve as the Man of Steel along with Margot Kidder, Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, and Ned Beatty. The Warner Bros blockbuster with a budget of about $55 million grossed more than $300 million at the global box office. The first movie tentpole based on a superhero comic character, it scored three Oscar nominations and won a special Academy Award for its visual effects. It also cast the die for the superhero franchise space now dominated by the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Universe of films. A dispute with the producers famously resulted in Donner taking his name off directing Superman II when Richard Lester was brought in after Donner had shot the majority of the movie; a director’s cut of the film with many of the excised Donner-directed scenes was released in 2006.
By that time, however, Donner had moved on to other blockbuster successes in just about every genre, directing Jackie Gleason and Richard Pryor in the comedy The Toy (1982), and in 1985 helming both the medieval period adventure Ladyhawke and the seminal kids’ adventure pic The Goonies. That pic, about a group of friends, hunt for treasure and come of age in coastal Astoria, OR, had a script penned by Chris Columbus based on a story by Steven Spielberg.
Donner’s final film as a director was 2006’s actioner 16 Blocks starring Bruce Willis (and a reunion with Morse), the latest in a line of action stars the director worked with that included Sylvester Stallone (Assassins), Gerard Butler, and Paul Walker (Timeline) and of course Gibson.
Donner and his producer-wife Lauren Schuler Donner produced dozens of films under their The Donners’ Company production banner including the X-Men franchise (Lauren Schuler Donner produced; Richard Donner was an EP) that has spawned a remarkable 13 films over a two-decade span at 20th Century Fox/20th Century Studios, including introducing the world to Ryan Reynolds’ smart-aleck Deadpool. The latest pic in the X-Men series, The New Mutants, bowed in August 2020. In total, those films grossed nearly $2.5 billion globally. The duo also produced 1993’s, Free Willy. That modestly-budgeted feel-good film went on to make $153 million globally.
Richard Donner Spouse
Richard was married to his wife Lauren Diane Shuler from 1985 until his demise in 2021. Richard Donner did not have children of his own.
Richard Donner Death
Richard Donner passed away Monday, according to his wife, the producer Lauren Schuler Donner, and his business manager. He was 91 years old at the time of his death. No cause of his death has been revealed.
Donner was eulogized by many in the film industry.
Richard Donner's big heart & effervescent charm shone in his movies through the remarkable performances of his cast, which is no mean feat. You remember all the characters in Superman, Lethal Weapon, The Goonies & more, because Donner knew how to capture that magic onscreen. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/7NDH9kKnQZ
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) July 5, 2021
Richard Donner had the biggest, boomiest voice you could imagine.
He commanded attention and he laughed like no man has ever laughed before. 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.
– Goonies Never Say Die
— Sean Astin (@SeanAstin) July 5, 2021