Academy Award-winning director John G Avildsen dead

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Los Angeles: On Friday, US director John G Avildsen, best known for directing the 1976 film Rocky for which he won an Academy Award for the Best Director and the 1980s The Karate Kid trilogy, died at the age of 81. His son, Anthony, told the Los Angeles Times that Avildsen died due to pancreatic cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.

Actors Sylvester Stallone, Ralph Macchio, Carl Weathers, Joe Manganiello, Thaao Penghlis; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer CEO Gary Barber and Directors Guild of America President Paris Barclay paid tribute to Avildsen.

After starting out as an assistant director on films by Arthur Penn and Otto Preminger, John Avildsen received his first success with the low budget feature Joe (1970) which received critical acclaim for star Peter Boyle and moderate box office business.

This was followed by another critical success, Save the Tiger (1973), that was nominated for three Oscars, winning Best Actor for star Jack Lemmon. Both Joe and Save the Tiger were about losers, but as the 70s ended, Avildsen began to focus his movies on people who went on to be victorious.

Avildsen’s greatest success was Rocky (1976), which he directed working in conjunction with writer and star Sylvester Stallone. The film was a major critical and commercial success, becoming the largest grossing film of 1976 and garnering ten Academy Award nominations and winning three, including Best Picture and Best Director. He later returned to direct what was expected to be the series’ final installment, Rocky V (1990). (Later installments were released in 2006 and 2015).

His other films include Cry Uncle! (1971), Neighbors (1981), The Karate Kid (1984), The Karate Kid Part II (1986), The Karate Kid Part III (1989), Lean on Me (1989) and 8 Seconds (1994).

Avildsen was the original director for both Serpico (1973) and Saturday Night Fever (1977), but was fired over disputes with producers Martin Bregman and Robert Stigwood, respectively.

An upcoming documentary on the life, career and films of Avildsen is currently in production. John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs (2017) is directed and produced by Derek Wayne Johnson and features interviews with Sylvester Stallone, Ralph Macchio, Martin Scorsese, Jerry Weintraub, Burt Reynolds amongst others. The documentary is a companion to the new book The Films of John G. Avildsen: Rocky, The Karate Kid, and other Underdogs, written by Larry Powell and Tom Garrett.

Avildsen’s accomplishments were documented in this year’s documentary film John G Avildsen: King of the Underdogs, which premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

From Wikinews under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence

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