“John G. Avildsen, who directed ‘Rocky’ and ‘The Karate Kid’ — two dark-horse, underdog favorites that went on to become Hollywood franchises — died Friday at age 81,” reports Time magazine.
The article continues, “Anthony Avildsen said his father died Friday in Los Angeles from pancreatic cancer.”
Sylvester Stallone, who wrote and starred in ‘Rocky,’ released this statement, according to USA Today:
“I owe just about everything to John Avildsen. His directing, his passion, his toughness and his heart — a great heart — is what made Rocky the film it became. He changed my life and I will be forever indebted to him. Nobody could have done it better than my friend John Avildsen. I will miss him.”
The USA Today obituary adds that Avildsen , “directed a few small films and broke through with ‘Joe’ (1970), starring Peter Boyle as a hardhat bigot at odds with the emerging hippie youth culture. Next came ‘Save the Tiger’ (1973), starring Jack Lemmon as a burned-out dress manufacturer; Lemmon would go on to win a best actor Oscar for the role.”
Writes The Hollywood Reporter, “Avildsen also called the shots on ‘The Karate Kid ‘(1984), the inspirational film that starred Pat Morita as an Okinawan martial arts master who agrees to teach karate to a bullied teenager (Ralph Macchio), then stayed on for the sequels in 1986 and 1989.
“‘Mr. Miyagi was the ideal surrogate father that everybody wished they had,’ Avildsen said [to one newspaper.], notes THR. ‘He was wise, he was generous, he was funny. He was a fairy godmother. And Pat Morita brought him to life, he was ideal. Who could be better?’ The franchise brought in almost a quarter-billion dollars at the box office.’”
John Avildsen (from a 2013 interview found on YouTube)