Karate Kid and Rocky director John G. Avildsen dies

Justin Harp
Photo credit: Ron Galella / Getty Images

From Digital Spy

Rocky's Academy Award-winning director John G. Avildsen has died at age 81.

The Oak Park, Illinois-born filmmaker passed away in Los Angeles of undisclosed causes, his spokesperson confirmed to Variety on Friday (June 16).

Photo credit: Gilbert Carrasquillo / Getty Images

Avildsen will always be linked with two of the great sports movies in cinema history, '70s boxing epic Rocky and '80s classic The Karate Kid.

With Rocky, Avildsen guided writer-star Sylvester Stallone's passion-project about the comeback of a down-and-out Philadelphia boxer from the page to the screen.

The film would ultimately earn him an Academy Award for Best Director in 1977, as well as a Directors Guild of America Award for the year's best film.

Photo credit: Ron Galella / Getty Images

Nearly a decade later, he would revolutionise the martial arts film with his Karate Kid trilogy, which earned star Pat Morita a Best Supporting Actor Academy nod for his portrayal of Mr Miyagi.

Throughout his career, Avildsen directed Jack Lemmon to a Best Actor Oscar as a businessman grappling with an existential crisis in Save the Tiger and also brought Morgan Freeman to wider fame in 1989's Lean on Me.

Photo credit: Columbia/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Avildsen also had the distinction of working on what would be John Belushi's final film, the 1981 black comedy Neighbors (which re-paired Belushi with Blues Brothers co-star Dan Aykroyd).

His other credits include Marlon Brando's conspiracy thriller The Formula, mid-'80s Brat Pack comedy For Keeps and a reunion with Stallone on Rocky V. Avildsen is survived by his three sons and a daughter.

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