Director John Avildsen dies at 81; won Oscar for 'Rocky'

Tomas Mccoy
June 17, 2017

Avildsen, the Oscar-winning director of Rocky and The Karate Kid, has died at the age of 81.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Avildsen's eldest son said the director had pancreatic cancer.

Avildsen had garnered huge success post teh release of Sylvester Stallone starrer "Rocky" in 1976. He hadn't started with Rocky, however, he had made earlier films, including the 1973 Save the Tiger, which won Jack Lemmon an Oscar for Best Actor, and Jack Gilford was nominated for Supporting Actor. Ralph Macchio in a statement provided to TheWrap said, "I am deeply saddened by the loss of my friend and "The Karate Kid" director John G. Avildsen".

Another underdog film, "The Karate Kid", was also an unexpected success at the box office and spawned a series of films, a sequel and a remake. In a public statement, the Directors Guild of America wrote, "Throughout the decades, his rousing portrayals of victory, courage and emotion captured the hearts of generations of Americans". "He was super talented and very driven and very stubborn and that was to his detriment but also often to his benefit", Anthony Avildsen said.

It's almost impossible to describe just how important John G. Avildsen has been to the world of cinema. "It's better not to be doing something you don't want to do", Avildsen told the Los Angeles Times after he departed from the project.

Avildsen also directed Burt Reynolds in the likable caper W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings (1975), George C. Scott and Marlon Brando in the thriller The Formula (1980), Morgan Freeman in school drama Lean on Me (1989) and the apartheid tale The Power of One (1992). Any filmmaker telling a tale of an underdog who gets their shot, or even just a story of personal redemption, or heck, a a movie in which people play sports, has watched Rocky and paid close attention.

Avildsen is survived by his daughter Bridget, and his sons Ashley, Anthony, and Jonathan.

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