Rocky & Karate Kid director John G. Avildsen has passed away at 81

John G. Avildsen – the Oscar-winning director of ROCKY, THE KARATE KID and more – has passed away at the age of 81. His son, Anthony, told the LA Times that his father died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center from pancreatic cancer.

Beginning his career with the Peter Boyle/Susan Sarandon vehicle JOE, and then directing Jack Lemmon in a Oscar-winning performance for SAVE THE TIGER, Avildsen won his own trophy for directing the Sylvester Stallone sports phenomenon, ROCKY. The movie won several Oscars, including Best Picture to go along with his own award for Best Director. He worked consistently over the next eight years before helming another rousing sports classic, THE KARATE KID, which earned Pat Morita an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

He would continue his career by directing another two KARATE KID movies before returning to the ROCKY series with ROCKY V. His final film was the Jean-Claude Van Damme film INFERNO in 1999.

Stars like Stallone and KID’s Ralph Macchio took to social media to commemorate the late director, whom they credit for their careers:


I owe just about everything to John Avildsen. His directing, his passion, his toughness and his heart — a great heart — is what made Rocky the film it became. He changed my life and I will be forever indebted to him. Nobody could have done it better than my friend John Avildsen. I will miss him."

Though his rousing sports stories will line his legacy, Avildsen should be equally remembered for his amazing character work within those films. Like the late Jonathan Demme, Avildsen was a terrific actor’s director, capable of getting any performer to get to the heart of their character. ROCKY is just as much a character study as it is a sports drama, and it wouldn’t have been the same had Avildsen not brought a sensitive touch to match the triumph. He will remembered fondly for many things, above all giving us stories that reaffirm the power and unbreakability of the human spirit.

Source: THR



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