Avildsen, John: Rocky Oscar-Winning Director Dies at 81

John Avildsen, who won the Best Director Oscar for Rocky in 1976, starring Sylvester Stallone, and also directed all three of the Karate Kid films, has died in Los Angeles. He was 81.

Avildsen also won the DGA Award for directing Rocky, which also won Oscars for best picture and film editing and was nominated in other categories.

In 2006, Avildsen recalled that a film with a boxing story didn’t excite him at first, but he was “moved by the urban character study of Sylvester Stallone’s script.”

He held out on directing the sequel for another project–“one of my greatest mistakes”–but returned to the franchise to direct 1990’s “Rocky V.”

In 1983 he was Oscar nominated again, this time for the documentary short “Traveling Hopefully.”

Avildsen developed a reputation for making movies about losers, or underdogs, who somehow become winners.

Avildsen’s other films included the critically hailed drama-thriller “Joe” (1970), starring Susan Sarandon and Peter Boyle. It was his first success as a director, and was praised for Peter Boyle’s performance.

“Save the Tiger” (1973), an issue-oriented drama sporting an outstanding starring performance from Jack Lemmon, was nominated for three Oscars, with Lemmon winning best actor. The three Oscar nominations for “Save the Tiger” and the win for Lemmon secured Avildsen’s place on the list of go-to directors.

His other films included comedy “W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings” (1975), starring Burt Reynolds; thriller “The Formula” (1980), starring George C. Scott and Marlon Brando; eerie comedy “Neighbors,” starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd; pregnancy comedy “For Keeps?” (1988), starring Molly Ringwald; drama “Lean on Me” (1989), which helped launch Morgan Freeman’s career; and bull riding biopic “8 Seconds” (1994), starring Luke Perry.

Avildsen started in the business as a cinematographer, lensing seven films from the mid-’60s to the early ’70s, including his feature directorial debut “Turn on to Love” (1969) and subsequent helming efforts “Guess What We Learned in School Today,” “Joe,” “Cry Uncle,” “Okay Bill” and “The Stoolie” (1972), starring Jackie Mason.

John Guilbert Avildsen was born in Oak Park, Illinois. He graduated from the prestigious Hotchkiss School and NYU. He started out in the film business as an assistant director on movies by Arthur Penn and Otto Preminger.

A documentary on the director’s life and career, “John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs” (2016), directed and produced by Derek Wayne Johnson, features interviews with Stallone, “Karate Kid” star Ralph Macchio, Martin Scorsese, Jerry Weintraub and Burt Reynolds.

 

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Speak Your Mind

*