John Avildsen, Oscar-winning director of 'Rocky,' dead at 81

John Avildsen, Oscar-winning director of 'Rocky,' dead at 81

Avildsen, who won the Best Director Oscar for 1977's Best Picture victor Rocky that introduced the world to Sylvester Stallone, and who later helmed three Karate Kid movies, has died in Los Angeles.

Avildsen had been suffering pancreatic cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, his son, Anthony, said by phone. He started with a long apprenticeship as assistant director, then moved up to production manager, cinematographer and editor.

Many prominent faces of movies directed by John G. Avildsen are paying their heart-felt tribute to the deceased director.

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Avildsen's other films included the critically hailed drama-thriller "Joe" (1970), starring Susan Sarandon and Peter Boyle. Ralph Macchio in a statement provided to TheWrap said, "I am deeply saddened by the loss of my friend and "The Karate Kid" director John G. Avildsen".

A friend sent Avildsen the "Rocky" script. A few years later, he would direct Jack Lemmon to a Best Actor Oscar with 1973's Save the Tiger. He was not the director of choice for Rocky but bagged it after another film got cancelled.

Avildsen directed both Karate Kid sequels but only one of the five Rocky sequels.

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Avildsen directed other major stars: Burt Reynolds in WW And The Dixie Dancekings (1975); George C Scott and Marlon Brando in The Formula (1980); Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi in Neighbours (1981); and Morgan Freeman in Lean On Me (1989). Thanks for so much John G. Avildsen.

"As soon as the producers saw the business it was doing, they wanted to do it again", Avildsen said in a 1986 interview. The three Oscar nominations for "Save the Tiger" and the win for Lemmon secured Avildsen's place on the list of go-to directors. Any filmmaker telling a tale of an underdog who gets their shot, or even just a story of personal redemption, or heck, a a movie in which people play sports, has watched Rocky and paid close attention. Avildsen is survived by his daughter, Bridget, and sons Anthony, Jonathan and Ashley.

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