R.I.P. Richard Donner: The Omen, Lethal Weapon director was 91

Last December, director Richard Donner said that he intended to get Mel Gibson and Danny Glover together to make one more film in the Lethal Weapon franchise, a film that Donner said would be his final movie. This would have given us the fascinating opportunity to see what an action movie from a director in his 90s would have been like. Sadly, Donner didn't have the chance to go into production on Lethal Weapon 5. His business manager and his wife, producer Lauren Schuler Donner, have confirmed that Donner passed away today at the age of 91.

Born on April 24, 1930, Donner got his start in the entertainment business by writing scripts for the TV series Men of Annapolis in 1957. In 1960, he started directing episodes of TV shows (and occasionally taking acting roles in them), including Wanted: Dead or Alive, Route 66, Wagon Train, The Rifleman, Have Gun - Will Travel, The Twilight Zone, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Gilligan's Island, Get Smart, The Fugitive, The Wild Wild West, and Kojak.

Although Donner made his feature directorial debut with X-15 in 1961 and made a couple more films along the way, his career remained primarily in television up until the horror classic The Omen in 1976. From there he made the 1978 version of Superman, The Toy, Ladyhawke, The Goonies, Scrooged, Radio Flyer, and all four Lethal Weapon movies, among other films. His final directorial credit was on the 2006 Bruce Willis action thriller 16 Blocks.

Between directing films, Donner also directed the music videos for Cyndi Lauper's "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough" and the Sting / Eric Clapton collaboration "It's Probably Me". 

Donner was also a producer on most of his own films, as well as The Lost Boys, Free Willy, X-Men, and more. He was an executive producer on the anthology series Tales from the Crypt, and directed three episodes of that show.

In the midst of filming Superman II, Donner and the producers ran into creative differences. Production was shut down when about 75% of the movie had been shot, and that footage sat on a shelf for a year and a half before Richard Lester was brought in to finish the film, as well as rework the script and reshoot scenes. Donner's vision for the sequel finally made its way out in the world twenty-six years after Lester's when Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut was released on DVD in 2006.

In the end, Donner had directing credits on more than 80 titles and producing credits on just under 40.

He gave us a lot of great movies to go back and watch again and again, so he'll continue entertaining us for a long time to come. It's just a shame he didn't get to make that one last movie he was looking forward to.

Mel Gibson released the following statement: 

Donner! My friend, my mentor. Oh, the things I learned from him! He undercut his own talent and greatness with a huge chunk of humility referring to himself as ‘merely a traffic cop.’ He left his ego at the door and required that of others. He was magnanimous of heart and soul, which he liberally gave to all who knew him. If we piled up all the good deeds he did, it would stretch to some uncharted place in the firmament. I will sorely miss him, with all his mischievous wit and wisdom."

Danny Glover had this to say: 

My heart is broken. Working with Dick Donner, Mel Gibson, and the Lethal Weapon Team was one of the proudest moments of my career. I will forever be grateful to him for that Dick genuinely cared about me, my life and my family. We were friends and loved each other far beyond collaborating for the screen and the success that the Lethal Weapon franchise brought us. I will so greatly miss him."

Our condolences go out to Donner's family, friends, and fans.

Source: Deadline

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