Richard Donner in 2017
Variety reports that the legendary American filmmaker Richard Donner has passed away at the age of 91. The cause has not been revealed. Donner realized the years 1978 Superman: the movie, and parts of its suite Superman ii, and would later revisit the character with co-writer Geoff Johns on DC’s “Action Comics” in the late 2000s. He also helmed The omen, The Goonies, Ladyhawke, Shaved, and the four Deadly weapon films, and also produced the 20th Century Fox’s X-Men films with wife Lauren Shuler Donner.
Born Richard Donald Schwartzberg in New York City on April 24, 1930, Donner made his debut as a television actor. After switching to writing and directing, he made his directorial debut with aviation drama X-15 (with David McLean, Charles Bronson and Mary Tyler Moore) in 1961, and subsequently directed episodes of The twilight zone, The UNCLE man, Gilligan Island, Perry mason, Get smart, Wild Wild West, Kojak, and even Banana Splits Adventure Time.
His big screen breakthrough came with The omen in 1976, whose success earned him the post of director of the two-part film Superman developed by producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind. Filming for the two films – starring Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder and many more – began in March 1977 and ended in October 1978. Tensions between Donner and the Salkinds led to the decision. to stop filming the sequel (75 percent had been completed), and concentrate on finishing the first film for release on December 15, 1978.
Despite the enormous success of Superman (which won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and the Saturn Award for Best Sci-Fi Film), Donner was fired from the sequel, which was completed by Richard Lester (who had originally been recruited as an intermediary between the director and the Salkinds.) Donner would eventually revisit the film in 2006 with the home release of Superman II: The Richard Donner Cup, which required the use of footage shot by Lester, as well as a first screen test of Reeve and Kidder, for scenes Donner had not filmed.
Richard Donner with Christopher Reeve on the set of “Superman”
At the same time, Donner and his former production assistant, Geoff Johns, were writing the adventures of Man of Steel in “Action Comics”. Their collaboration produced two arcs: “Last Son”, with artist Adam Kubert, and “Escape From Bizarro World” with Eric Powell. The old arc, which at the time was sadly the subject of heavy delays, featured Christopher Kent (Lor-Zod), the adopted son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, and the biological son of General Zod and Ursa. Donner, Johns and Superman would eventually come together once again for “The Car”, a story by artist Olivier Coipel, published in the 2018 80th anniversary special “Action Comics” # 1000.
Donner’s last film was the 2006 thriller 16 blocks, with Bruce Willis and Mos Def, but insisted he had not retired, stating just last year that he still planned to direct Lethal weapon 5. Ironically, he was brought on the set of 2009 X-Men Origins: Wolverine to serve as an intermediary between the film’s director, Gavin Hood, and Fox, which led to rumors that he had repossessed the film.
In addition to Johns, Donner has been a mentor to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, who started as an assistant to Lauren Shuler in the late ’90s and then became an associate producer in the 2000s. X Men (and many other Marvel movies) accordingly. During an Academy tribute to Donner in the presence of Feige and Johns in 2017, Feige said: “Superman, the movie, is still, to this day, the archetype of the origin story of the perfect superhero movie. Hope you don’t bemoan the fact that this movie inspired all of these movies.