Richard Donner, ‘Superman’ and ‘Lethal Weapon’ director, dead at 91

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Richard Donner, the prolific filmmaker responsible for Hollywood classics of the 1970s and ’80s including the original “Superman” and “Lethal Weapon,” has died at the age of 91.

His production company confirmed the news to Variety but did not disclose a cause of death.

The Bronx native was born Richard Donald Schwartzberg on April 24, 1931, and attended NYU, majoring in both business and theater.

Donner was an actor before taking his talents behind the camera. He moved on to become a television director after he realized while working on off-Broadway productions and Martin Ritt’s “Of Human Bondage” that acting wasn’t for him.

“Marty told me I’d never make it as an actor because I couldn’t take direction,” Donner once said, “but he thought I could give it and offered me a job as his assistant.”

Donner would go on to work on his directing abilities while calling the shots for series’ such as Wanted: Dead or Alive,” “The Twilight Zone,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and “The Fugitive.”

Along with directing high-paced dramas, Donner also worked for the classic animation company Hanna-Barbera, directing some episodes of the children’s series “The Banana Splits,” along with a few episodes of “Danger Island.”

In 1961, Donner broke into the film scene with his first movie “X-15,” a low-budget production starring Charles Bronson. In Europe, Donner directed the British films Salt and Pepper” and “Twinky” (aka “Lola”), and “Child Bride.”

In 1976, Donner made his first feature film, “The Omen.” His work on that film propelled him into one of his most prominent positions, director of the original “Superman” movie in 1978. Donner worked also on parts of the sequel to “Superman,” but a litigious dispute with the film’s two producers led him to quit before the movie was finished.

At the start of the 1980′, Donner would go on to direct smaller movies including the well-reviewed “Inside Moves,” which ended up doing poorly at the box office. He also joined with Richard Pryor to direct the comedy film “The Toy” in 1982.

After adding many producing credits to his name along with wife Lauren Shuler Donner, Donner would go onto to direct his next box office hit, “The Goonies.” He would follow that up with the first “Lethal Weapon” movie, starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, which was released in 1987.

Late in his career, Donner would throw his hat back into the world of superhero movies when he joined the production of Bryan Singer’s “X-Men” and the prequel, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”

Donner is survived by his wife. The couple had been married since 1986.

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