Jewish filmmaker Richard Donner passes away at 91



Richard Donner, the Hollywood producer and director best known for his work on the “Lethal Weapon” franchise, the iconic “The Goonies,” and the 1978 classic Superman (1978), starring Christopher Reeve and Marlon Brando, died Monday, according to multiple reports, citing his wife and their production company.

He was 91. No cause of death was shared.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Donner was born in New York City to Jewish parents and became fascinated by film at a young age.

Tributes to Donner are now appearing on social media.

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Zack Snyder, who directed Man of Steel, another movie about the famous comic book character Clark Kent, expressed his gratitude towards Donner.

Steven Spielberg, a producer on Donner’s The Goonies, said that the late director “had such a powerful command of his movies, and was so gifted across so many genres. Being in his circle was akin to hanging out with your favorite coach, smartest professor, fiercest motivator, most endearing friend, staunchest ally, and — of course — the greatest Goonie of all.”

More From His IMDB Bio


Donner directed Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980) back-to-back, then cut back on filming the sequel to focus on finishing the first one for a Christmas release. A clash with producers Alexander Salkind and Ilya Salkind over the material led to Donner being fired before he could finish filming the second one and he was replaced by Richard Lester. Donner later estimated that he had directed 80% of the sequel and saw about 50% of his work in the theatrical film.

Was asked to direct the fourth Superman film (Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)), and considered it alongside Tom Mankiewicz, who had been the writer of the first two Superman films, but ultimately both Donner and Mankiewicz declined, as they had other projects to deal with at the time.


Kept both One-Eyed Willie’s head and a model for the ship from The Goonies (1985).

Producer Steven Spielberg instructed the cast members to act cold and distant toward Donner on the last week of filming, which puzzled him. Shortly after filming wrapped, Donner went to his beach house in Hawaii, ran into a frenzied neighbor who took up his entire day. When he arrived home, the entire cast was there with Donner to celebrate with a cookout. Spielberg flew them over to Hawaii on the promise that they not speak a word of the surprise to Donner, which prompted them to act the way they were on the last week of filming.

Other Factoids

Was considered to direct Batman (1989), and had Mel Gibson in mind for the role of Batman.
Was offered the job of directing Never Say Never Again (1983) but turned it down according to the book “The Films of Sean Connery” by Philip Lisa and Lee Pfeiffer.
Co-producer of the “X-Men” films directed by Bryan Singer, who later directed Superman Returns (2006), a little more than 30 years after Donner himself directed the first one, Superman (1978).
Turned down the offer to direct Alien 3 (1992).
Lived in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, CA.
Was interested in directing DragonHeart (1996) and spent six months on it in pre-production before moving on to other projects.
Directed one Oscar-nominated performance: Diana Scarwid in Inside Moves (1980).
Was offered the opportunity to direct Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) but declined.
Little Caesar (1931) was his favorite film.
Directed two war veterans turned actors who played the iconic disabled war veteran Homer Parish in the different versions of the same story – The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) and Returning Home (1975). Donner directed Harold Russell in Inside Moves (1980) and James R. Miller in Scrooged (1988).
Was considered to direct Problem Child (1990), but declined as he was busy in post-production on Lethal Weapon 2 (1989).
Was originally to direct Wild Wild West (1999) (he had directed three episodes of The Wild Wild West (1965)). His version would have had a script by Shane Black and Mel Gibson starring as Jim West. Donner and Gibson wound up dropping out to make Maverick (1994) instead.
Ridley Scott offered him the chance to direct Thelma & Louise (1991). He was keen to shoot the film–he called the script “historic”–but wanted his wife, Lauren Shuler Donner to produce, but Scott was not enthusiastic about that.
Was considered to direct Judge Dredd (1995).
Didn’t return to direct either Damien: Omen II (1978) or The Final Conflict (1981). In the former case, he was busy with Superman (1978), while in the latter case he was involved with legal problems involving Ilya Salkind and Alexander Salkind after being sacked from Superman II (1980).
At one point he was going to direct The Flintstones (1994). When the movie went from Warner Bros. to Universal, he stayed around but had to pull out due to conflicting schedules with Maverick (1994).
Originally intended to direct The Lost Boys (1987) himself, but as production languished, he moved onto Lethal Weapon (1987) and eventually hired Joel Schumacher for the job. He still served as executive producer.
Was considered to direct Rambo (2008).
On 10/16/08 he and Lauren Shuler Donner received stars in a double ceremony on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for their achievements in motion pictures, located at 6712 Hollywood Blvd.
He directed two films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant: Superman (1978) and The Goonies (1985).
He directed all 4 of the Lethal Weapon movies.