Richard Donner Has Died: ‘Superman’ and ‘Lethal Weapon’ Director Passes at 91

Richard Donner, the prolific filmmaker known for an array of pictures, from 1978’s Superman, to The Goonies, to all four Lethal Weapon movies, has died at age 91.

The news of Richard’s passing was confirmed by his wife, Lauren Schuler Donner, a producer as well as Richard’s business manager. There has been no cause of death reported.

Donner began his career in television, directing episodes on classic series such as The Twilight Zone, Gilligan’s Island, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Wild Wild West.

His first film was 1961 Charles Bronson-starring drama X-15, which didn’t make too much of a mark. He returned back to television until his second feature in 1968, Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford crime-comedy Salt & Pepper. In 1970 Donner directed Twinky, a film where Bronson plays a 38-year-old erotic novel writer who marries a 16-year-old girl.

It was his 1976 film, horror classic The Omen, that would catapult Donner into the big-budget studio realm. The horror film become one of that year’s highest grossing films and spawned a franchise. Two years later, Donner helmed Christopher Reeve-starring DC Comics adaptation Superman, a massive production that went on to receive critical acclaim, three Academy Award nominations, and over $US300 million at the worldwide box office. Donner continued on with the developing franchise for Superman II, directing around 75% of it until a dispute between Donner and producers saw him taken off the film and replaced with Richard Lester(a Richard Donner cut of the film was released in 2006).

Among the titles that followed over the years: 1985’s The Goonies, based on a story by Steven Spielberg; 1985 fantasy adventure Ladyhawke, with Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer, and Michelle Pfeiffer; 1988 Bill Murray comedy Scrooged; 1995 Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas thriller Assassins; 2006 Bruce Willis thriller 16 Blocks; and all four of the hit Lethal Weapon films, starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. Donner and Gibson enjoyed a long working relationship as director and star, also working together on 1994’s Maverick and 1997 thriller Conspiracy Theory.

Donner was also a producer/exec producer on a number of films via the Donners’ Company banner he shared with his producer-wife. As producer/executive producer, Donner’s credits include X-Men & X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the Free Willy franchise, The Lost Boys and the Lethal Weapons films, among others.

The entertainment industry is reeling at the news of Donner’s passing, admirers and many of those lucky to work with him sharing condolences and memories. Among them, in no particular order…

Steven Spielberg:

“Dick had such a powerful command of his movies, and was so gifted across so many genres. Being in his circle was akin to hanging out with your favorite coach, smartest professor, fiercest motivator, most endearing friend, staunchest ally, and — of course — the greatest Goonie of all. He was all kid. All heart. All the time. I can’t believe he’s gone, but his husky, hearty, laugh will stay with me always.”

Mel Gibson:

“Donner! My friend, my mentor. Oh, the things I learned from him! He undercut his own talent and greatness with a huge chunk of humility referring to himself as ‘merely a traffic cop.’ He left his ego at the door and required that of others. He was magnanimous of heart and soul, which he liberally gave to all who knew him. If we piled up all the good deeds he did, it would stretch to some uncharted place in the firmament. I will sorely miss him, with all his mischievous wit and wisdom.”

Danny Glover:

“Working with Dick Donner, Mel Gibson and the Lethal Weapon team was one of the proudest moments of my career. I will forever be grateful to him for that. Dick genuinely cared about me, my life and my family. We were friends and loved each other far beyond collaborating for the screen and the success that the Lethal Weapon franchise brought us. I will so greatly miss him.”

Corey Feldman:

Zack Snyder:

Edgar Wright:

Elijah Wood:

Patty Jenkins:

Kevin Feige:


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