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News: Director Richard Donner dies, aged 91

A pioneer of the superhero / comic book genre has died - Richard Donner passed away aged 91 on July 5th. A film director, producer and writer, Richard Donner had a hand in many beloved films through the 70s, 80s and 90s across many genres. Superhero, action, comedy, horror, family, adventure - if you love it, chances are Donner did it.

Before breaking into Hollywood as a film director, Donner started off in a television career. Fuelled by helping tell stories and his personal love of acting, he worked his way through the industry through the 1950s and 60s to eventually helming episodes of classic American shows such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Kojak and The Twilight Zone.

In the 60s he also directed his first film - X-15 - but continued to hone his talent through television until way into the 1970s when his really caught the attention of the audience and the industry with classic horror film The Omen.

But his breakout film was just the start of what would snowball into a successful few decades of work for Donner as director. The next big film he worked on was Superman: The Movie in 1978. This was a make or break film - adapting one of America's (and the worlds) most iconic comic book heroes to the big screen with little known actor Christopher Reeve up against veterans such as Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman.

Superman: The Movie set a benchmark when it came to superhero films. It was a huge success grossing over $300m on a $55m budget, and with the collaboration of John Williams creating the iconic score, Donner's film launched the genre with aplomb and helped inspire those who came after him.

You can trace back the superhero films of today, now bigger and slicker than ever with big-name stars and CGI, right back to 1978. Donner's attention to humour, warmth, spectacle, adventure and daring-do action lay foundations that may have improved since, but have never changed fundamentally. Donner introduced the world to Superman, many for the first time, and the sights, sounds and story from this film has never left the minds of those who have witnessed it.

With his sequel, Superman II, that fell through due to creative differences with the producers, Donner left the franchise he helped create and his intended vision of the sequel would not be seen for another 26 years when his director's cut was finally released.

But into the 1980s, his career, like Superman, soared. Donner touched on new genres including drama, comedy, fantasy and action. Most notably were his films Ladyhawke, The Goonies, Scrooged and Lethal Weapon which itself made names of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, and also launched a hit franchise over the next decade.

In the space of a few years, Donner had delivered audience pleasing films across so many genres that few could rival his creative talent. He had an eye for fast-paced action and humour. He understood family friendly adventure and escapism. He appreciated an immersive story and memorable characters. Working alongside talent such as Steven Spielberg, Sylvester Stallone and Bill Murrary proved that Donner had the respect as a director and industry pioneer.

Away from film, he continued to direct and produce TV over the decades, never losing his creative spark or input into entertainment. More credits to his name over the years that followed include Tales from the Crypt, Free Willy and X-Men.

With rumours that Lethal Weapon 5 was in the early days of pre-production recently with Donner, Gibson and Glover set to return only proved that his passion for film-making and delivering to the fans was always there right to the end. His footprint on cinema is nothing short of ground-breaking, and he gave so many generations the wonder and adventure that comes with being a film fan for all the right reasons.

If you wanted to fly, find hidden pirate treasure, find your festive spirit, take down bad guys or simply be a decent person, Richard Donner helped take you there thanks to his movies.

Richard Donald Schwartzberg


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