Published: Sat, June 17, 2017
Life&Culture | By Kristin Armstrong

John Avildsen, Oscar-winning director of 'Rocky,' dead at 81

John Avildsen, Oscar-winning director of 'Rocky,' dead at 81

Avildsen took the Rocky job only because funding fell through for another movie he was set to direct.

Avildsen's son, anthony, told the Los Angeles Times that he died of pancreatic cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. It won Oscars for best picture, director (Avildsen) and editing and was nominated for seven others. No one had placed much money on the film telling the story of a bullied teenager who learns karate.

The Director's Guild released a statement honouring Avildsen's impact on the industry.

In the 1980s, Avildsen helmed another popular franchise in The Karate Kid, directing the original 1981 film and its two subsequent sequels in 1986 and 1989, to the tune of almost a quarter-billion dollars grossed overall. "Throughout the decades, his rousing portrayals of victory, courage and emotion captured the hearts of generations of Americans", the statement said. And although anyone would be fortunate to have made such a fantastic motion picture, even once in their lives, Rocky has perhaps overshadowed numerous filmmaker's other great accomplishments.

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Today sees the tragic passing of Academy Award victor John G. Avildsen. He also directed Karate Kid sequels in 1986 and 1989. He and Stallone worked together again in Rocky V (1990).

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

John Guilbert Avildsen was born in Oak Park, Illinois. Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, George C. Scott, and Marlon Brando all passed in front of Avildsen's camera over the next few years, but films like Neighbors, The Formula, and Slow Dancing In The Big City failed to attract either critical love or box office success. Lemmon won the Oscar as best actor for "Save the Tiger", while Jack Gilford got a supporting-actor nomination. The director of the inspirational dramas Rocky, The Karate Kid and Lean On Me has died at the age of 81.

Said Stallone: "I owe just about everything to John Avildsen". Coyle reported from NY.

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