The popular director Richard Donner, who had over eighty filmmaking credits to his name, died earlier today, as confirmed to Variety by his production company. Donner started his career off in television and made his feature film debut in 1961 with X-15. His first major film was The Omen, followed by Superman and its sequel Superman II. In addition to cult favorite The Goonies, Donner may best be known for helming the four Lethal Weapon films, which were released between 1987 and 1998. He directed only two films after that, Timeline in 2003 and 16 Blocks in 2006.
Though Donner, who was born Richard Donald Schwartzberg, started off as an actor with some success in the early 1950s, he was told by director Martin Ritt that he didn’t take direction well, prompting him to transition into other jobs, including an assistant, a driver, a director, and also eventually a producer, joining another hit franchise as an executive producer for 2000’s X-Men and 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. His wife of thirty-five years, Shuler Donner, was a frequent producing partner.
Many of Donner’s collaborators offered tributes to the late director. Steven Spielberg, who worked with Donner on The Goonies, shared in a statement that “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.
Sean Astin, one of the stars of the film, shared that “Richard Donner had the biggest, boomiest voice you could imagine. He commanded attention and he laughed like no man has ever laughed before. Dick was so much fun. What I perceived in him, as a 12 year old kid, is that he cared. I love how much he cared.”
Donner’s Lethal Weapon stars had particularly kind words for him, as shared with Deadline. Danny Glover wrote that “My heart is broken. 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.”
Mel Gibson wrote, “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.”