Hollywood is in mourning today, as there are reports that the filmmaker behind some of the most beloved films of the 20th century has passed away. Richard Donner, who directed classics in all genres over the course of his career, has died at the age of 91 – the news confirmed today by his wife Lauren Schuler Donner, and his business manager.
According to Deadline, no cause of death has been revealed yet.
Starting his career on the small screen, directing an episode of the 1960 television series Zane Grey Theatre, Richard Donner made his theatrical feature debut with 1968's Salt And Pepper starring Sammy Davis Jr and Peter Lawford. However, it was only a few years later that he made what is considered by many to be one of the scariest horror movies of all time in 1976's The Omen. A couple years after that he made the first "serious" superhero blockbuster ever, with Superman: The Movie released in 1978, and he followed that up with 1980's Superman II (he's uncredited on the theatrical cut, but the re-edited "Richard Donner Cut" was finally released in 2006).
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s he continued to experiment in wide varieties of storytelling – not unlike Steven Spielberg, with whom he collaborated on 1985's The Goonies. He directed the buddy cop classic Lethal Weapon in 1987, and he also helmed all three sequels – making movies like Scrooged, Radio Flyer, Maverick, and Conspiracy Theory in between.
Richard Donner's output as a director slowed after 2000 (though much like how he helped invent superhero cinema with Superman, he was a producer on the film that ushered in the modern era of the genre: X-Men). In 2003 he directed the Michael Crichton adaptation Timeline, and he helmed his final film – the underrated Bruce Willis/Yasiin Bey two-hander 16 Blocks – in 2006.
To say the least, Richard Donner had a spectacular, industry-changing career. Not only will movie fans continue to watch his work for decades and decades to come, but filmmakers will never stop studying it and working to unlock its magic. He was constantly able to evoke the best from the stars he worked with, from Gregory Peck to Christopher Reeve to Bill Murray, and the timelessness of the stories he told will ensure that he will forever be remembered in the film world.
We here at CinemaBlend extend our deepest condolences to Richard Donner's family, friends, and fans, and hope that the hurt of the loss is overwhelmed by love and celebration of his remarkable life. And if you aren't personally familiar with his movies, it's never too late to discover and fall in love with them as audiences have done over and over again in the last six decades.