Filmmaker Richard Donner passed away. The director of film classics such as The Omen and Superman became 91, and colleague directors praise Donner as one of the founders of modern Hollywood.
Born in New York, Donner began his career as a director of TV series, such as Gilligan‘s Island and The Twilight Zone. He broke through in 1976 with the movie The Omen, at a time when the horror genre became more popular after the success of The Excorcist. In The Omen, the stillborn child of an American diplomat is swapped with another child shortly after birth. That turns out to be the devil’s son in the end.
Two years later Superman, a film with which actor Christopher Reeves gained great fame in the role of the superhero and his alter ego Clark Kent. That movie meant a break in style with previous TV and cinema screenings of superhero comics. Until then, the superhero genre was mostly comic and campy, but Donner made Superman a serious affair. He also found that superhero films were ideally suited to use the most advanced special effects.
As realistic as possible
He insisted that the scenes in which Reeves flies were as realistic as possible, in order to convince the audience that Superman was as little bound to gravity as a bird or a plane. His uncompromising attitude caused him to be fired as director of Superman‘s sequel.
Donner’s tone and approach were much followed in later years. Meanwhile, the superhero genre is one of the most important corks Hollywood floats on.
Donner is also seen as one of the big names in another genre: the buddy cop film. He made a total of four Lethal Weapon films, in which actors Mel Gibson and Danny Glover played an agent duo.