John G. Avildsen, Rocky director

Hollywood has lost another one of its notable contributors as 2017 continues. In late April, we were hit with the death of Jonathan Demme, who directed the 1991 horror-thriller Silence of the Lambs. Now comes word that John G. Avildsen, the man best known for directing Rocky and the first three Karate Kid movies, has passed away at the age of 81.

Anthony Avildsen, John Avildsen's son, informed The Los Angeles Times that his father passed away from pancreatic cancer at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Along with Anthony, he is survived by his daughter Bridget and his other sons Jonathan and Ashley.

John Avildsen got his start in the movie-making business when he served as an assistant director Arthur Penn and Otto Preminger, and his first feature film was 1970's Joe, starring Peter Boyle, Dennis Patrick and Susan Sarandon. He followed that up with movies like Cry Uncle, Okay Bill and Save the Tiger, the latter earning Jack Lemmon won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as Harry Stoner. However, Avildsen made arguably his biggest contribution to the world of cinema when he teamed with Sylvester Stallone to make Rocky, the classic underdog boxing movie. At the time of its release in 1976, the film wasn't quite met with the same positive reception that it enjoys by many now, but it went on to receive the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Film Editing, as well as five other Oscar nominations. Avildsen reunited with the Italian Stallion more than a decade later to direct Rocky V.

You can watch John Avildsen's acceptance speech upon winning the Best Director Oscar for Rocky below.

After Rocky, John Avildsen directed movies like The Formula, Neighbors and A Night in Heaven, but he left his next biggest mark by helming 1984's The Karate Kid, starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. Like Rocky, The Karate Kid is still considered a classic, and Mortia earned Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for his performance as Mr. Miyagi. Avildesen returned to direct the next two Karate Kid movies, but he passed off directing duties to Christopher Cain for 1994's The Next Karate Kid.

John Avildsen wound down his directing work in the 1990s, ending his career with The Power of One, 8 Seconds and Inferno. He was also the subject of a documentary titled John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs, which will be available on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD and Video on Demand starting August 1.

There's no doubt that John Avildsen left an enormous impact on Hollywood, and his work will live on to influence other filmmakers. We here at CinemaBlend send our condolences to his family and friends.

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