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Richard Donner dead: Superman and The Goonies director dies at 91

A still of Christopher Reeve in Superman, the cast of the Goonies and director Richard Donner

Richard Donner was a prolific Hollywood success story (Picture: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

Prolific director and producer Richard Donner, whose big screen classics include The Goonies, The Omen, the original Superman film and the Lethal Weapon movies, has died aged 91.

A Hollywood heavyweight of the 70s, 80s and 90s, Donner’s career also took in classic TV of the 50s and 60s such as The Twilight Zone and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., alongside executive producing work on Bryan Singer’s X-Men in 2000 and the 2009 X-Men Origins: Wolverine prequel.

His death was confirmed to Variety by Donner’s production company, although no cause has yet been released.

Donner began his career as an aspiring actor, mainly in off-Broadway productions, before he was given the advice of trying out directing by a colleague who felt he wasn’t good at taking it himself.

His television directing career took off after six episodes of Wanted: Dead or Alive, a Steve McQueen Western series, and Donner then dotted about studios helming various episodes of series like Perry Mason, Route 66, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart, Kojak and The Twilight Zone, including a 1963 episode starring a young William Shatner.

Iconic horror movie The Omen in 1976, starring Gregory Peck, marked Donner’s feature film break-through, and it was just two short years before he was working with Christopher Reeve on Superman.

Donner’s career spanned over six decades (Picture: Columbia/Kobal/Shutterstock)

In the 1980s, Donner saw continued success with fantasy adventure Ladyhawke, nostalgic childhood favourite The Goonies and the start of the Lethal Weapon franchise, starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover.

Actor Sean Astin, who starred as Mikey in The Goonies, played tribute to Donner, remembering how he ‘commanded attention’ and ‘laughed like no man has ever laughed before’.

‘Dick was so much fun,’ he continued, ‘What I perceived in him, as a 12-year-old kid, is that he cared. I love how much he cared.’

Astin signed off his tribute with a beloved and poignant phrase from the film: ‘Goonies Never Say Die.’

Kerri Green, Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman, Sean Astin, Ke Huy Quan, Jeff Cohen, Martha Plimpton The Goonies - 1985 Director: Richard Donner Warner Bros USA Scene Still Action/Adventure Les Goonies

The Goonies is one of Donner’s most beloved films (Picture: Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Donner directing Lethal Weapon star Mel Gibson (Picture: Snap/Shutterstock)

On top of his successful directing career, with the Lethal Weapon movies’ box office performance propelling him into the exclusive club of directors who have generated over $1billion (£721.8m), Donner also produced films, many of them with his wife Lauren Shuler Donner.

These include Omen III: The Final Conflict, The Lost Boys and the Free Willy trilogy, while he continued as a director of films like Scrooged, starring Bill Murray, and Assassins, featuring Sylvester Stallone, into the 90s.

After the success of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, his last producing credit was 2012’s Black & White in Colors, although he was attached to an as-yet unreleased untitled Goonies ‘re-enactment’ TV movie and to the movie’s official sequel.

He is survived by his wife, Shuler Donner.

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