Academy Award winner, John G. Avildsen, who directed Rocky, among other classic movies, has died at 81.
Avildsen passed away as a result of pancreatic cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Sylvester Stallone remembered the late director, telling the Hollywood Reporter: “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.”
For over 40 years, the underdog story about a Philadelphia brawler getting a shot at the title has enthralled moviegoers. In addition to directing Susan Sarandon in Joe (1970) and Jack Lemmon in Save the Tiger (1973) – which won Lemmon an Academy Award, Avildsen also helmed The Karate Kid (1984), the hit movie which saw Pat Morita as Mr Miyagi, teaching karate to a bullied teenager played by Ralph Macchio. The film earned Morita an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor and the director followed up with parts II and II in 1986 and 1989, bringing in almost a quarter-billion dollars at the box office through the course of the franchise.
A documentary about his career, John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs, premiered this year at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
RIP John, you will be missed.