Richard Donner Dead at 91
The director helmed 1978's 'Superman,' 'Lethal Weapon,' 'The Goonies' and more
Published Jul 05, 2021Richard Donner — the American director and producer who famously helmed the Christopher Reeve-starring Superman, the Lethal Weapon franchise, The Goonies and more — has died.
Donner's wife, producer Lauren Schuler Donner, and his business manager confirmed his death to Deadline, though a cause of death was not revealed. He was 91.
Born in the Bronx in 1930, Donner began his industry career directing commercials before moving to television dramas. His early career credits includes shows and series such as Route 66, The Rifleman, Get Smart, The Twilight Zone, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, Gilligan's Island and Kojak.
Donner would make his directorial debut in film with 1961's X-15, which starred Mary Tyler Moore in her first feature film role. He would follow that film seven years later, directing 1968's Salt and Pepper with Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford.
The director's breakthrough came with 1976's The Omen, a supernatural horror film that would go on to be the fifth highest-grossing movie of that year. Superman followed in 1978, bringing both Donner and starring hero Reeve international acclaim. Its $55 million USD budget made it the most expensive film ever made up to that point, and the movie grossed more than $300 million at the global box office.
Donner was set to direct the sequel that would ultimately become 1980's Superman II, though a dispute with producers ultimately led to his exit from the project and reshoots of previously filmed scenes. Donner's version of the film was eventually released in 2006 as Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut.
Donner found blockbuster success after Superman with films like The Goonies, Scrooged, Conspiracy Theory and the Lethal Weapon franchise, which began with a titular movie in 1987. Donner directed all four films in the Lethal Weapon series and co-produced alongside Joel Silver. The four titles, released between 1987 and 1998, grossed more than $900 million USD worldwide.
Donner produced the 2000 Marvel Comics film X-Men, ahead of serving as executive producer for the 2009 X-Men prequel, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Lauren Schuler Donner has produced all of the films in the X-Men film series under production banner the Donners' Company.
In 2008, Donner and Lauren Shuler Donner received Hollywood Walk of Fame stars in a double ceremony for their on-screen achievements. He would release the authorized biography You're the Director... You Figure It Out: The Life and Films of Richard Donner, written by James Christie, in 2010.
Last year, Donner joined a Goonies cast reunion for charity.