Director John Avildsen dies at 81; won Oscar for 'Rocky'

Jay Jacobs
June 17, 2017

The boxing ring is silent and no-one is running up the steps at the Art Museum in Philadelphia tonight as the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Academy Award winning director John G. Avildsen has passed away at the age of 81. The filmmaker died of pancreatic cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Times, citing Mr Avildsen's eldest son.

Avildsen came up the hard way in films, starting with a long apprenticeship as assistant director, then moved up to production manager, cinematographer and editor.

The director found himself at the helm of another big franchise when he directed 1984'sThe Karate Kid starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. "His directing, his passion, his toughness and his heart - a great heart - is what made "Rocky" the film it became", Stallone wrote in a statement.

RIP to my friend and KK director John G Avildsen.

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Another underdog film, "The Karate Kid", was also an unexpected success at the box office and spawned a series of films, a sequel and a remake. He received an Oscar nomination in 1983 for his documentary short film Traveling Hopefully.

"As soon as the producers saw the business it was doing, they wanted to do it again", Avildsen said in a 1986 interview.

Said Stallone: "I owe just about everything to John Avildsen". Thanks for so much John G. Avildsen. Three years later, Avildsen helmed Save the Tiger, which earned Jack Lemmon an Academy Award for his portrayal of a fashion executive embroiled in an existential crisis. (1988), starring Molly Ringwald; drama "Lean on Me" (1989), which helped launch Morgan Freeman's career; and bull riding biopic "8 Seconds" (1994), starring Luke Perry. To this day, I can still remember being in the movie theater watching Daniel Larusso, despite all odds, defeat that blonde-haired jerk Johnny with one kick and win the tournament.

He is survived by his sons Jonathan, Ashley and Anthony, and daughter Bridget.

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