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Remembering Superman Director Richard Donner, Who Passed Away Monday at 91 Years Old

Director Richard Donner, actors Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, actress Margot Kidder and Christopher Reeve on set of the Warner Bros movie "Superman " in 1978. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Legendary director Richard Donner passed away Monday at the age of 91, leaving behind a film legacy that made us all believe a man could fly.

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The Bronx-born, Jewish director got his big breakthrough into Hollywood when he made the now-iconic horror movie The Omen in 1976, ruining the name Damien for all time. Two years later, he did a massive 180 and made the 1978 Superman film. Considered the most expensive film ever made at that point, with a budget of $55 million, it was risky on multiple levels.

Superhero films were not the box office draw they are today, and on top of spending so much money, the development team decided to cast an unknown actor, Christopher Reeve. Also, Donner was shooting Superman II simultaneously with the first film, which made everything extra risky. By the time they were focusing totally on Superman, apparently, 75% of the sequel was done. Thankfully, the film would be a massive success grossing over $300 million at the box office and making Reeve a legend.

Donner would go on to direct The GooniesScrooged, the Lethal Weapon film franchise, and several episodes of television shows.

Following his death, many fans, fellow directors, actors, and friends took onto the internet to share tributes. Most notably Gene Hackman, who played Lex Luthor in Superman, recounted an anecdote to The Hollywood Reporter:

“I showed up for the first day of makeup tests for Superman with a fine Lex Luthor mustache I’d grown for the role,” he began. “Dick, wearing his own handsome mustache, told me mine had to go. He bargained to lose his if I did mine. True to his word, he celebrated my last razor stroke by gleefully pulling off the fake whiskers he’d acquired for the occasion.”

Concluded Hackman, “Dick made it fun, and that’s why the films turned out that way, too.”

For me, Superman remains one of those movies that proves what makes Superman so great, and I will always hold it as the example of what makes Superman work: the warmth, the heart, the smile. Those things bring him to life, and I still say Donner brought him to life best.

What is your favorite Richard Donner film?

(image: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

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Princess Weekes
Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.

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