Multiple sources have reported that acclaimed film director Richard Donner has passed away. Donner is the director behind numerous beloved films, including The Omen, The Goonies, Scrooged, and the Lethal Weapon series. He also directed the first blockbuster superhero movie with 1978’s Superman: The Movie.
Donner’s first Hollywood credit is in 1957 as a writer on four episodes of the anthology TV series Men of Annapolis. He moved to directing in 1960, working in film on the Charles Bronson-starring X-15, as well as on numerous series throughout the ’60s including The Fugitive, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart, and The Twilight Zone (including the iconic William Shatner-starring “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”). Working steadily into the ’70s, Donner’s first big hit was 1976’s The Omen, the success of which led producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind to tap Richard Donner to direct Superman: The Movie. The film was the most expensive ever made up until that point with a budget of $55 million dollars, and would go on to earn over $300 million dollars worldwide during its theatrical run.
A poor working relationship between Donner and the Salkinds led the producers to fire Donner halfway through completion of Superman II, and Donner would go on to direct more than a dozen films, including the aforementioned The Goonies, Scrooged, and all four Lethal Weapon movies. In 2006 Warner Bros worked with Richard Donner to restore and release his version of Superman II, and that same year Donner teamed with his former assistant, writer Geoff Johns, for a brief run co-writing Action Comics. He also served as an executive producer on 2000’s X-Men movie, as well as on 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
But it’s the ’78 Superman film that has left the most lasting impact on many in the comics community, with some taking to social media in the wake of the news of Donner’s passing to express their admiration and the role the film played in their lives. Its legacy has endured to the point that DC announced a continuation of the continuity of the Christopher Reeve-starring film; the first issue of Superman ’78 is due out next month.