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

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

John Avildsen, the Oscar-winning director whose blockbuster films like Rocky and The Karate Kid championed the ascent of underdogs, has died. Avildsen's son Anthony says his father died Friday, June 16, 2017, in Los Angeles from pancreatic cancer. After serving in the military, he made industrial films for companies and worked as an assistant to directors, including Otto Preminger before directing his first film in 1969, Turn On to Love.

Calling Avildsen "my friend" along with a collage of photos, Macchio says the director "brought inspirational stories to us all and had a guiding hand in changing my life".

The franchise, The Karate Kid (1984), which starred Pat Morita as an Okinawan martial arts master who agrees to teach karate to a bullied teenager, brought in nearly a quarter-billion dollars at the Box Office. Three years later, he took on a script from Stallone and made Rocky, which also won Stallone the Best Actor Oscar and launched one of moviedom's most iconic franchises.

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RIP to my friend and KK director John G Avildsen.

He had been hired to direct Saturday Night Fever after his success with Rocky, but was let go amid differences over his desire to make the story more upbeat than the producers had in mind. He did not direct any of the sequels that followed but returned for Rocky V in 1990. He received an Oscar nomination in 1983 for his documentary short film Traveling Hopefully.

The Director's Guild released a statement, saying "We were greatly saddened to learn of the passing of beloved director John Avildsen".

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Said Stallone: "I owe just about everything to John Avildsen".

What's your favorite John G. Avildsen film? Three years later, Avildsen helmed Save the Tiger, which earned Jack Lemmon an Academy Award for his portrayal of a fashion executive embroiled in an existential crisis.

Other now-classic films include The Karate Kid and Lean on Me.

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Avildsen has two other films on his resume that are always worth watching.

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