We lost part of our childhood this past week. Famed movie director Richard Donner,
best known for “The Goonies” and “Lethal Weapon,” has passed away at the age of
- Donner was lucky enough to live a long and prosperous life, but there’s still great
sadness among his former colleagues, friends, and millions of fans at his passing.
Sadly, we can now put those hopes and dreams of a sequel to “The Goonies” away
To some people, Donner is known as “the father of superhero films.” He was making
them long before they became fashionable at Disney and even before Marvel and DC
saw the value in turning their successful comic book lines into blockbuster movies.
That reputation largely comes from the success of the Christopher Reeve-led
“Superman” films of the 1970s and 1980s. Although studios had made superhero
films and television shows before Donner’s “Superman” series, they were largely
seen as niche products and delivered in a camp style akin to the Adam West
“Batman” television show of the 1960s. Donner’s style of presentation changed all of
that. The template he created with the first “Superman” film became the foundation
of many of the modern movies we enjoy today. Many fans feel that despite the
efforts of Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill, Reeve’s portrayal of the character is still
the definitive one.
Donner never set out to become a hero to children, but he became one anyway
thanks to the success of “The Goonies” in 1985. To those who are now in their 30s or
40s, it’s often thought of as the greatest children’s film of all time. Its influence is
even still felt today at online slots websites. That’s a strange place for Donner’s
creation to end up, but a “Megaways” online slots game called “The Goonies”
attracts thousands of players every day at Rose Slots CA and will soon be followed up
by a second game called “The Goonies Return.” It’s a bitter irony that an online slots
game based on the film will get a sequel, but the film itself never will. Donner spoke
favourably of the idea of making a sequel to “The Goonies” many times in the past
decade, but despite several scripts being written and a willingness from the movie’s
stars to return, it never happened. Now, it never will.
There couldn’t be a starker contrast between Donner’s two most famous creations.
Putting “Superman” aside for a moment, the biggest hits he experienced over the
course of his career were “The Goonies” and “Lethal Weapon.” One is a lovable
children’s adventure. The other is one of the most spectacularly violent action movie
franchises of all time. Donner made four films starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover
in the lead roles between 1987 and 1998, followed by a television series in 2016. A
fifth film, provisionally entitled “Lethal Finale,” was announced in early 2020, with
Donner scheduled to direct the movie as well as handling aspects of the script.
Gibson and Glover had agreed to return for the film, and it’s understood that the
script had been completed prior to Donner’s passing. He intended it to be the last
film he’d ever direct, but he’ll never get the chance to do so now. Without Donner’s
involvement, the future of the movie becomes uncertain.
Although he’d never officially retired and intended to return to the director’s chair
for another “Lethal Weapon” film, Donner hadn’t helmed a movie since “16 Blocks”
in 2006. That will now go down in history as his last film and the end of a career that
began with “X-15” in 1961. The Mary Tyler Moore-led production was a mild success,
but it wasn’t until “The Omen” in 1976 that Donner became a famous name among
his profession. “Superman” came along two years later and propelled him into the
stratosphere. Working as a producer as well as a director, he was also the driving
force that brought the world “The Lost Boys” and “Free Willy.” Fans of Christmas
movies probably know him best for the classic “Scrooged,” starring Bill Murray,
which is repeated by many television networks every December. His stellar success
across multiple decades earned him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
As incredible as Donner’s career as a director was, it wasn’t his first choice of
profession when he got involved in the entertainment world. He initially wanted to
be an actor and only became a director after being insulted by director Martin Ritt
on the set of one of many low-profile television shows. Donner questioned Ritt’s
directing style, and Ritt angrily responded that Donner was incapable of taking
direction and ought to become a director himself if he wanted to call the shots. Ritt
probably didn’t intend his outburst to be career advice, but Donner took it anyway
and focused on a new life behind the camera rather than in front of it. Ironically,
some of Donner’s earliest work behind the camera was as Ritt’s assistant after
Donner’s tenacity and work ethic won him over. Together, they worked on “The Man
From UNCLE,” “The Banana Splits,” The Fugitive,” and “Gilligan’s Island.”
Although Donner stopped working regularly after the turn of the century, he
remained in touch with the movie world and regularly offered his opinion on modern
superhero movies. He disliked what he saw as a dark tone to many such films,
although he expressed support for Zack Snyder’s efforts to re-edit and re-release
“Justice League” and other films in the so-called “Snyderverse” after interference
from studios impacted Snyder’s original vision. That was something Donner knew
about only too well. He angrily quit “Superman II” with the film around 75% finished
after repeated arguments with the studio about the film’s tone.
Richard Donner is survived by his wife, Lauren Shuler Donner, who will now assume
one hundred per cent ownership of the film production company that the couple
owned together. The company has television shows and films in production on a
schedule that extends into 2023 and beyond. Donner might be gone, but his
influence in Hollywood will be felt forever.