American director Richard Donner (born Richard Donald Schwartzberg) has died. He was 91.
Donner was an American director and producer of film and television and occasional comic-book writer. After directing the horror film The Omen (1976), Donner became famous for directing the first modern superhero film, Superman (1978), starring Christopher Reeve.
He left the successful film’s sequel in an eventually litigious dispute with the films’ producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind. The film was taken over by Richard Lester, though much of Donner’s work remains in the finished film, albeit uncredited. In 2006, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut was released on DVD the same day that Bryan Singer’s franchise reboot Superman Returns debuted on home video.
Donner later went on to direct movies such as The Goonies (1985) and Scrooged (1988), while reinvigorating the buddy film genre with the Lethal Weapon film series.
He and his wife, producer Lauren Shuler Donner, own the production company The Donners’ Company (formerley Donner/Shuler Donner Productions), most well known for producing the Free Willy and X-Men franchises.
In 2000, he received the President’s Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films. Film historian Michael Barson writes that Donner is “one of Hollywood’s most reliable makers of action blockbusters”