Published: Sat, June 17, 2017
Culture&Arts | By Lena Vasquez

John Avildsen, who won Oscar for 'Rocky', dies of cancer

John Avildsen, who won Oscar for 'Rocky', dies of cancer

Academy Award-winning director John G. Avildsen, acclaimed for helming the original Rocky and the first three Karate Kid movies, has passed away at the age of 81 in Los Angeles.

His son, Anthony, told the Los Angeles Times that Avildsen died of pancreatic cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He started with a long apprenticeship as assistant director, then moved up to production manager, cinematographer and editor. The documentary is a companion to the book "The Films of John G. Avildsen: Rocky, The Karate Kid, and Other Underdogs", written by Larry Powell and Tom Garrett. Avildsen made his directorial debut with the 1970 drama Joe, starring Peter Boyle.

In The Karate Kid (1984), The Karate Kid Part II and The Karate Kid Part III, Avildsen directed Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita.

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Avildsen returned to the Rocky franchise to direct the critically panned Rocky V (1990) about a protege who turns on Rocky.

A friend sent Avildsen the "Rocky" script.

He also directed the great Jack Lemmon to his second Oscar in 1973's "Save the Tiger". He received another Oscar nomination in 1983 for directing the documentary short Traveling Hopefully.

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Other directing credits include 1981's dark comedy Neighbors starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd and 1989's Lean On Me with Morgan Freeman as a tough inner-city school principal with a heart of gold. And although anyone would be fortunate to have made such a fantastic motion picture, even once in their lives, Rocky has perhaps overshadowed numerous filmmaker's other great accomplishments.

In a 1992 interview, Avildsen outlined his view of filmmaking.

John G. Avildsen was one of the greats. Any filmmaker telling a tale of an underdog who gets their shot, or even just a story of personal redemption, or heck, a a movie in which people play sports, has watched Rocky and paid close attention.

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John Avildsen is survived by sons Anthony, Jonathan and Ashley; and daughter, Bridget.

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