John Avildsen, 81, director who won Oscar for 'Rocky'

John Avildsen, 81, director who won Oscar for 'Rocky'

LOS ANGELES (AP) — John G. Avildsen, who directed "Rocky" and "The Karate Kid" — two dark-horse, underdog favorites that went on to become Hollywood franchises — died Friday at age 81.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Avildsen's eldest son said the director had pancreatic cancer. He started with a long apprenticeship as assistant director, then moved up to production manager, cinematographer and editor. In 2016, directed Derek Wayne Johnson made a documentary on Avildsen's life and career. His iconic "Rocky", which won the DGA Feature Film Award in 1976, has been lionized throughout our culture as the quintessential underdog story - a recurring theme in his notable body of work which included "Save the Tiger" and "The Karate Kid" franchise.

"My friend sent me this [Rocky] script and got me to read it", Avildsen told the Birmingham, Ala., News in 2000. (The film reportedly inspired the softer-edged bigots in shows like Norman Lear's All In The Family, and the positive reaction to the character by moviegoers who identified with Joe, instead of being reviled by him, caused Boyle to renounce violent roles.) Avildsen followed Joe with the 1973 morality play Save The Tiger, which earned Jack Lemmon an Academy Award for his depiction of a desperate, ethically tortured businessman.

Stallone took to Instagram to pay tribute to Mr Avildsen, who helped usher the actor to stardom: "R. I. P". 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.


John G. Avildsen was one of the greats. In 1983, he got an Oscar nomination for his documentary Traveling Hopefully.

In a 1992 interview, Avildsen outlined his view of filmmaking. He left quite a nice legacy of films including "The Karate Kid", "Lean on Me", the original "Neighbors" with Aykroyd and Belushi.

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

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