Total Film

RICHARD DONNER

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Paying tribute to the late Superman director.

Aman known for magical blockbuste­rs and mastering the suspension of disbelief paid tribute to filmmaker Richard Donner after he died in early July after decades of movie-making. “Dick had such a powerful command of his movies, and was so gifted across so many genres,” wrote his friend and collaborat­or Steven Spielberg. “Being in his circle was akin to hanging out with your favourite coach, smartest professor, fiercest motivator, most endearing friend, staunchest ally, and – of course – the greatest Goonie of all. He was all kid. All heart. All the time. I can’t believe he’s gone, but his husky, hearty laugh will stay with me always.”

Total Film can attest to that laugh and friendly persona, having attended a 25th-anniversar­y Goonies reunion in 2010 on the Warner Bros studio backlot and seen the warm, fatherly way Donner still interacted with his now-grown cast. They discussed the incessant tricks they’d played on their patient director during filming while he smiled fondly. A ringmaster of big budget, often-difficult blockbuste­rs, Donner wasn’t about to be fazed by a bunch of cheeky kids – though he admits a lack of cast discipline made his job a challenge as well as a gift.

Born Richard Schwartzbe­rg in April 1930, the New York native initially had his eye on acting but switched to helming on the advice of his friend, Marty Ritt. He honed his craft on TV shows like Gilligan’s Island, Perry Mason and The Twilight Zone, made his feature debut on 1961’s X-15, but found fame with 1976’s The Omen before moving on to 1978’s Superman (and a then-whopping $1m paycheck) where he exceeded audience and studio expectatio­ns of a superhero movie, essentiall­y inventing the genre. He locked horns with execs over the budget and time taken to creating convincing flying effects for the Man of Steel and was rewarded by soaring box-office

returns. He famously walked away from the sequel after disagreeme­nts with producers, but much of his work was still evident in the resulting Richard Lester-directed film – and a Donner director’s cut was released in 2006.

In 1985, he made Ladyhawke, where he met his wife, Lauren Shuler (a dynamic duo personally and profession­ally, they later created The Donners Company and produced superhero smashes Deadpool, The Wolverine and the X-Men films), and beloved family film The Goonies, which cemented his reputation for being able to capture rambunctio­us magic onscreen. In 1987, Donner perfected the buddy movie with

Lethal Weapon, and the following year, he updated the Christmasm­ovie formula with Scrooged. He then showed legs in feature-film reboots of existing properties with Maverick (1994). He was planning to close the Lethal Weapon franchise, signing up to direct a final re-team, but passed away from an undisclose­d cause at the age of 91. Asked how he’d like to be remembered in a recent interview, Donner was typically modest: “As a good guy who lived a long life and had a good time and always had that lady behind him pushing him.” JC

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