John Avildsen, the Oscar-winning director who made Hollywood's quintessential underdog story in the 1976 boxing saga Rocky with a then unknown Sylvester Stallone, and crafted another inspiring tale in The Karate Kid, died on Friday at age 81, his family said.
His son, Anthony, told the Los Angeles Times that Avildsen died of pancreatic cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. After serving in the military, he made industrial films for companies and worked as an assistant to directors, including Otto Preminger before directing his first film in 1969, Turn On to Love.
Stallone had written the script and wanted Avildsen to direct it, but Avildsen was already working on another film, but suddenly the production company ran out of money and that film was cancelled.
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The director found himself at the helm of another big franchise when he directed 1984'sThe Karate Kid starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. This time, when the chance to stay on for a massively lucrative film franchise presented itself, Avildsen took it, directing The Karate Kid Part II and Part III as well. And although anyone would be fortunate to have made such a fantastic motion picture, even once in their lives, Rocky has perhaps overshadowed numerous filmmaker's other great accomplishments.
Avildsen directed other major stars: Burt Reynolds in WW And The Dixie Dancekings (1975); George C Scott and Marlon Brando in The Formula (1980); Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi in Neighbours (1981); and Morgan Freeman in Lean On Me (1989).
Five sequels followed, but Avildsen turned them down until the fourth, Rocky V, in 1990.
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Avildsen was one of the the great filmmakers, and now he is with us no more.
What's your favorite John G. Avildsen film? The three Oscar nominations for "Save the Tiger" and the win for Lemmon secured Avildsen's place on the list of go-to directors.
He is survived by his sons Jonathan, Ashley and Anthony, and daughter Bridget. To me, that is good drama.
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