The “greatest goonie of all”: director Richard Donner passes away at 91

Prolific filmmaker Richard Donner, who directed Superman, Lethal Weapon and The Goonies, has died at 91. Touching tributes follow.

Donner’s death was confirmed by his production company on Monday. However, no details were provided as to the cause of his death.

Donner was the force of talent behind multiple iconic movies of the 20th century. He helped launch actors such as Oscar-winner Mel Gibson, who starred in his Lethal Weapon films.

Pictured: Danny Glover, Richard Donner and Mel Gibson at the Richard Donner Tribute, 2017, Picture: Jordan Strauss via Invision

Donner was born in The Bronx, New York, and initially strove for an acting career before being convinced by actor and director Martin Ritt to pursue directing.

Beginning in television, he worked on shows including Gilligan’s Island and The Twilight Zone.

Transitioning into feature films during the early 60s, Donner’s breakthrough film was the 1976 horror movie The Omen. 

Just two years later, Donner directed Superman, starring Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Marlon Brando, Ned Beatty and Gene Hackman.

The movie grossed over $300 million globally and was nominated for three Oscar awards.

Superman also won a special Academy Award for its innovative use of visual effects, which pushed the boundaries of the time as Reeves was depicted flying above the fictional city of Metropolis.

For many, Donner’s most treasured film is The Goonies. The 1992 film depicted two brothers’ adventure with friends to find a long-lost treasure and save their home.

The Goonies has attracted such devoted fans that anniversary events for the film often draw up to 15,000 visitors.

During the summer of the movie’s 30th anniversary, the house used to film the movie welcomed over 1,000 daily visitors.

Tributes to Donner have come in from many eminent figures of the film industry.

Steven Spielberg, who wrote the story for The Goonies, stated that: “(b)eing in (Donner’s) 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. Spielberg described Donner’s character as “all kid. All heart. All the time.

Speaking with Deadline, Mel Gibson left a touching and eloquent tribute to Donner. He stated:

Donner! My friend, my mentor. Oh, the things I learned from him! He undercut his own talent and greatness with a huge chunk of humility referring to himself as ‘merely a traffic cop.’ He left his ego at the door and required that of others. He was magnanimous of heart and soul, which he liberally gave to all who knew him. If we piled up all the good deeds he did, it would stretch to some uncharted place in the firmament. I will sorely miss him, with all his mischievous wit and wisdom.”

The final film Donner directed was 16 Blocks in 2006. It starred Bruce Willis and David Morse.

Donner will also be remembered as a passionate advocate for animal rights. He and his wife devoted their time to rescuing dogs and protesting the captivity of orca whales.