Richard Donner

Active - 1961 - 2019  |   Born - Apr 24, 1930 in New York, New York, United States  |   Genres - Action, Drama, Comedy, Thriller, Horror

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Working briefly as an actor in the late 1950s, American director Richard Donner first wielded the megaphone for a group of TV commercials, then graduated to the weekly western Wanted: Dead or Alive. Some of Donner's best early work was concentrated on the fantasy anthology Twilight Zone, including the imperishable 1963 episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." Donner also worked for Hanna-Barbera, directing several episodes of "Danger Island", a component of the 1968 kid's series The Banana Splits; there was, however, very little that was "kiddie" about "Mystery Island," a hallucinatory symphony of hand-held camerawork. A film director since 1961 Donner turned to movie work full time with 1968's Salt and Pepper. The Omen (1976), a demonic-possession opus, was Donner's first major moneymaker, leading to his directing assignment on the first Superman film in 1978. Superman was popular enough to inspire three sequels, the first of which contained so much uncredited Donner-directed footage that the director was compelled to sue. Donner has struck gold at the box office several times since 1978, notably with the three action-packed Lethal Weapon films starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, and more recently with another Gibson vehicle, Maverick (1994).

Movie Highlights

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  • Was the director of the first modern superhero film, Superman, in 1978.
  • Human free-fall stunts became one of his trademark film features.
  • While directing The Goonies, he makes an uncredited appearance on camera as one of the sheriffs as the Goonies exit the cave with the ship.
  • Steven Spielberg threw a surprise wrap party for Donner at Donner's beach house in Hawaii with the entire cast of The Goonies after filming.
  • Was given the President's Award by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films in 2000.
  • Awarded his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in a rare double ceremony with his wife, Lauren Shuler Donner in 2008.
  • His 2010 authorized biography features a forward by Mel Gibson.