Richard Donner, director of Superman and Christopher Reeve, dressed in the Superman costume



He helped us believe a man could fly. Richard Donner, director of Superman: The Movie, four Lethal Weapon movies, The Omen and The Goonies has passed away aged 91.

Donner was an actor who moved into directing thanks to a break on the western series Wanted: Dead or Alive. He followed this with work on The Man From U.N.C.L.E., KojakThe Fugitive and the kids show The Banana Splits, as well as guiding six episodes of the CBS series The Twilight Zone, including the unforgettable 'Nightmare at 20,000 Feet' starring William Shatner.

Donner's movie career was launched with low-budget sci-fi film X-15 in 1961. It was another seven years before he took the reins again, but it was the huge success of 1976 supernatural thriller The Omen, starring Gregory Peck, that really gave Donner his big break.

Donner was part responsible for the casting of Christopher Reeve in the role of Superman for the 1978 blockbuster, against the wishes of producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind who wanted a star such as Robert Redford or Paul Newman to take the lead role. Despite the success of the first movie, and having started work on a sequel, Donner was replaced on Superman II by Richard Lester who jettisoned much of Donner's work. (A Donner cut was finally released on DVD in 2006.) Donner later collaborated with his former assistant, Geoff Johns on the Superman comic-book stories Last Son and Escape from Bizarro World, in 2006.

Donner's most successful work was, arguably, his quartet of Lethal Weapon movies (1987-1998) which grossed a total of $955 million internationally. Other movies directed by Donner include the much-loved The Goonies (1985), the fantasy Ladyhawke (1985), the Bill Murray-starrer Scrooged (1988) and 1994's Maverick, starring Mel Gibson. He also acted as executive producer on 2000's X-Men and 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Richard Donner 1930-2021