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

Rocky’ and ‘Karate Kid’ director John G. Avildsen dead at age 81

Rocky’ and ‘Karate Kid’ director John G. Avildsen dead at age 81

Anthony Avildsen said his father died Friday in Los Angeles from pancreatic cancer. His work was ultimately well-rewarded; the film was a box office smash, and earned 10 Oscar nominations, including wins for Best Picture, Best Film Editing, and a Best Director statue for Avildsen himself. Rocky trains very hard in a memorable and iconic montage and although he faces his share of trouble, preservers and comes out as a champion in the end.

On top of making a movie star out of Sylvester Stallone, Avildsen excelled at portraying the everyman. "It was a great character study". It was his first success as a director, and was praised for Peter Boyle's performance. He not only directed the 1984 original but returned for two sequels: The Karate Kid Part II in 1986 and The Karate Kid Part III in 1989.

Avildsen, the Academy Award-winning director passed away at an age of 81.

"He changed my life and I will be forever indebted to him".

The Karate Kid' actor, Ralph Macchio, also paid tribute to the great director and tweeted, "RIP to my friend and KK director John G Avildsen".

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He also guided Jack Lemmon to his only best actor Oscar for his role in the 1973 film Save the Tiger.

A native of Oak Park, Ill., Avildsen started out as a cinematographer, and he shot his directorial debut, Turn on to Love (1969). Other directing credits include 1981's dark comedy Neighbors starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd and 1989's Lean On Me with Morgan Freeman as a tough inner-city school principal with a heart of gold.

Avildsen was born on December 21, 1935, in Oak Park, Illinois.

The Directors Guild of America also honored Avildsen following the news of his death, releasing a statement which remembers him as a "beloved" and "prolific" director.

A documentary, John G. Avildsen: King Of The Underdogs, won the docu prize at the Beverly Hills Film Festival this spring. Avildsen directed one of the best films ever made, and helped shape the genre of sports movies as we have come to know them.

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