Richard Donner, the Legend That Brought Superman to Cinematic Life, Has Died

The director behind The Omen, Lethal Weapon, The Goonies, and Producer behind the X-Men's cinematic debut, was 91.

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Richard Donner attending an Academy tribute to his career in 2017.
Richard Donner attending an Academy tribute to his career in 2017.
Photo: Valerie Macon/AFP (Getty Images)

Superman director Richard Donner, the beloved filmmaker whose hits behind the camera also include The Goonies, Lethal Weapon, and his work as a producer on X-Men and and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, has passed away at the age of 91.

Donner’s career as a filmmaker began in TV after a brief stint as an actor, with credits on the likes of The Twilight Zone, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and The Fugitive. After a string of smaller directorial pieces throughout the ‘60s and early ‘70s, Donner’s first major break was helming smash hit thriller The Omen in 1976, before shooting himself to superhero cinema fame with the legendary Superman in 1978, casting Christopher Reeve as DC Comics’ legendary Man of Tomorrow and changing the superhero movie landscape as we’d know it for a new generation. Donner originally intended to return for the sequel, Superman II, but behind-the-scenes disputes with the films’ producers, with director Richard Lester taking over. Much of Donner’s work was left in the final Superman II uncredited, until Warner Bros. released Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut on home video in 2006, to co-incide with Bryan Singer’s cinematic reboot Superman Returns.

As Donner moved on—most notably with the Lethal Weapon franchise in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, starting a working relationship with Mel Gibson that continued in Maverick and Conspiracy Theory—Donner incorporated more production roles into his career, including director-producer turns on Scrooged and Assassins, and involvement with fellow Superman alumni Singer on the 2000 take on X-Men.


As Variety reports, no cause of death has been revealed. He’s survived by his wife, producer Lauren Schuler Donner.

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