UPDATED with latest: Richard Donner, the director that launched Superman on the big screen and elevated the buddy movie to blockbuster status with Lethal Weapon as part of a five-decade film and TV directing and producing career, died Monday at age 91. His credits included helming such iconic movies across several genres from the horror pic The Omen to the kids adventure tale The Goonies to a Christmas classic Scrooged.
He was remembered in industry circles today for his booming laugh and kindness, with his Goonies co-star Sean Astin saying, “What I perceived in him, as a 12 year old kid, is that he cared. I love that he cared.”
Said 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, who became a global star thanks to the Donner-directed Lethal Weapon movies, told Deadline that Donner was his “friend and mentor,” saying “He was magnanimous of heart and soul, which he liberally gave to all who knew him. … I will sorely miss him, with all his mischievous wit and wisdom.”
Said Donner’s Assassins co-star Sylvester Stallone: “I enjoyed working with Dick Donner on Assassins. He was a man’s man, extremely talented! Great sense of humor, his big laughter was like rolling thunder.”
Warner Bros., was rightly thankful for Donner’s brilliant work launching Superman on the big screen with a film many consider a benchmark for superhero success. The studio posted a statement on Twitter lamenting Donner’s loss with the words, “Thank you for helping us all believe a man can fly.”
That film’s EP, Ilya Salkind, said he was very sad at the director’s passing and issued the following statement to Deadline late Monday:
Richard Donner was an extraordinary director and person. Perfect for Superman The Movie. Alexander Salkind and I saw The Omen and we decided to hire him for Superman The Movie. It turned out to be a fantastic choice and the film is now…in the Library of Congress. He told everybody involved in the film to apply verisimilitude.
My father, Alexander Salkind and I had a great collaboration with Dick. We were and still are fortunate and so was Richard Donner as Superman The Movie became a phenomenon…And that set the standard for all comic book/superhero movies to follow.
PETA President Ingrid Newkirk spoke out following the passing of Donner, who with producer-wife Lauren Schuler Donner brought 1993’s Free Willy to the big screen. Newkirk remembered the recenty-deceased Donner as a longtime PETA supporter and issued the following statement:
PETA will remember Richard as a brilliant director and producer whose movies drew people to view animals as someone, not something. A pioneer, long before Blackfish opened eyes and hearts, Richard revealed the anguish of captive orcas with Free Willy—and, thanks to the impact of his film, Keiko the orca was rescued from marine park prison and spent many joyful years swimming free in Norway’s coastal waters. Richard holds a special place in PETA’s heart for his activism and kindness, and we will miss him.
Here’s what others who worked with and were inspired by him have said. Keep checking back as we add to the list.
Steven Spielberg reflects on the passing of Richard Donner, friend, and beloved director of THE GOONIES for Amblin Entertainment, who passed away today at 91.#RichardDonner #TheGoonies pic.twitter.com/6KSmKvWqVI
— Amblin (@amblin) July 5, 2021
Richard Donner's big heart & effervescent charm shone in his movies through the remarkable performances of his cast, which is no mean feat. You remember all the characters in Superman, Lethal Weapon, The Goonies & more, because Donner knew how to capture that magic onscreen. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/7NDH9kKnQZ
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) July 5, 2021
Rest in peace to legendary Director, Richard Donner. Thank you for helping us all believe a man can fly. pic.twitter.com/M1uQJJLOG5
— Warner Bros. (@WBHomeEnt) July 5, 2021
To my mind this word captures the first priority and goal of a film director, regardless of genre or style. And Dick Donner achieved it time and time again, in all sorts of films. It's not easy. It takes artistry. RIP Richard Donner. https://t.co/I6SInbMKr7
— Mangold (@mang0ld) July 5, 2021
Richard Donner made the devil a child in The Omen, invented the modern day comic book movie with Superman, and reinvented the buddy cop movie with Lethal Weapon. I got to meet with him last year about a project. Guy was a natural born storyteller. Thanks for all the flicks, Dick! https://t.co/pjC9dbSkbt
— KevinSmith (@ThatKevinSmith) July 5, 2021
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.
– Goonies Never Say Die
— Sean Astin (@SeanAstin) July 5, 2021
Incredibly sad to have just heard the news that the wonderful #RichardDonner has died. He was the best.
— Sarah Douglas (@TheSarahDouglas) July 5, 2021
Hard to imagine another director with as much tonal breadth as Richard Donner, who nailed it every time no matter the genre. Who else could’ve made both THE GOONIES and THE OMEN? LETHAL WEAPON and SCROOGED? And a SUPERMAN for the ages. He made so many of my favorite movies. RIP.
— Gary Whitta (@garywhitta) July 5, 2021
RIP, Richard Donner, director of the greatest superhero film of all time. pic.twitter.com/Vu5rMvLush
— Aditya Sood (@adityasood) July 5, 2021
Richard Donner directed many wonderful and iconic films, including Superman, the Goonies and Lethal Weapon 1-4.
One of his lesser known films is a little gem of a movie.
It's called LADYHAWKE and it stars Matthew Broderick, Michelle Pfeiffer and Rutger Hauer pic.twitter.com/utuLf2gv7W
— Don Winslow (@donwinslow) July 5, 2021
The great Richard Donner on set. RIP 💔 pic.twitter.com/KiGTYCytP4
— Museum of the Moving Image (@MovingImageNYC) July 5, 2021
Richard Donner Dead: ‘Superman’, ‘Lethal Weapon’ Director Was 91 – Deadline https://t.co/bsCFadRq3g Godspeed good man. We are fewer
— TitusWelliver (@welliver_titus) July 5, 2021
Richard Donner was one of THE great Hollywood directors – The Omen, Superman, The Goonies, Lethal Weapon, Scrooged. Every one of them perfect. Made us believe a man could fly. One of the architects of the blockbuster. Farewell sir, your legacy is immortal. #RichardDonner pic.twitter.com/XgC8wheQIv
— JONATHAN SOTHCOTT (@sothcott) July 5, 2021
— Gabriel Luna (@IamGabrielLuna) July 5, 2021
Underrated beyond imagination. Richard Donner’s LADYHAWKE. Give it a look if you have never… pic.twitter.com/gxU4Qqo5Uf
— robliefeld (@robertliefeld) July 5, 2021
#richarddonner wasn't just the architect of the modern superhero movie – his career is a straight line from the first golden age of tv to the creation of the modern blockbuster. his passing truly marks the end of many eras. https://t.co/UAXVMUgBpq
— javier grillo-marxuach (@OKBJGM) July 5, 2021
Richard Donner was the best. THE OMEN, SUPERMAN, GOONIES, the LETHAL WEAPONs, SCROOGED. There's nobody else like him. A genius, and by all accounts, a joy to work with. Maybe he Rest in Peace. pic.twitter.com/gAVI0Hs84T
— Brian Lynch (@BrianLynch) July 5, 2021
We hosted Richard Donner for a screening of THE OMEN at the first Beyond Fest in 2013. He was as generous, kind, thoughtful, and brilliant as you would have wanted him to be. We have lost a good one. pic.twitter.com/KbV0td4BvT
— Beyond Fest (@BeyondFest) July 5, 2021