Superman Director Richard Donner Passes Away at 91

The Hollywood Reporter brings word that Richard Donner, the director who brought Superman to the big screen in the late ’70s, has died. He was 91 years old.

Donner began his filmmaking career in the early 1960s. During this time, he worked primarily in television, helming episodes of popular shows like The Twilight Zone, Gilligan’s Island, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and The Wild Wild West. He made his feature directorial debut with X-15 in 1961. However, it wasn’t until 1976 that he got his big break directing The Omen for 20th Century Fox. This ultimately paved the way for Donner’s take on DC Comics’ Man of Steel, which became the first big-budget superhero movie and changed the entertainment landscape forever.

True to its famous tagline, Superman really did make audiences believe a man could fly when it opened in December of 1978. While making the movie, Donner hung a banner in his office that said “verisimilitude,” stressing his desire for as much realism as possible. He also rejected the idea that superheroes were only for kids. In 1977, he told The New York Times, “It’s a picture made for adults that children will go see.”

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After shooting roughly 75% of Superman II, the franchise’s producers, Alexander and Ilya Salkind, fired Donner. They replaced him with Richard Lester, who was given sole credit on the sequel. However, Donner’s Superman II cut was later released on DVD in 2006.

Some of Donner’s other credits also include The Goonies, Scrooged, and all four Lethal Weapon films. Donner and his wife, Lauren Shuler Donner, also produced the first X-Men movie. Donner’s last film, 16 Blocks, hit theaters in 2006.

Feel free to share your favorite memories of Richard Donner in the comment section below.

Photo Credit: E. Charbonneau/WireImage for Carl Samrock Public Relations Inc.