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Reza Badiyi dies at 81; prolific TV director

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Reza Badiyi, a prolific television director whose credits included "Get Smart" and "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and who set a Directors Guild of America record for directing the most hours of episodic series television, has died. He was 81.

Badiyi, who had been dealing with a number of medical issues in recent weeks, died Saturday at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, said family spokeswoman Bita Milanian.

The Iranian-born Badiyi, who launched his filmmaking career making documentaries in Iran before moving to the United States in 1955, began directing for TV in the late 1960s.

Among his long list of credits are "Mission Impossible," "The Rockford Files," "Baretta," "Mannix," "Starsky and Hutch," "The Six Million Dollar Man," "The Incredible Hulk," "Cagney & Lacey," "Falcon Crest," "In the Heat of the Night," "Baywatch" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Badiyi also directed episodes of the original "Hawaii Five-O" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and was involved in the creation of both shows' memorable title sequences.

In March 1998, Badiyi achieved a Directors Guild milestone for directing the most hours of episodic series television when he finished his 400th TV episode, for the sci-fi series "Sliders."

Badiyi's last credit as a director was the 2006 feature film "The Way Back Home."

In 2009, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Noor Iranian Film Festival.

A year later, members of the Iranian American community honored Badiyi for his 80th birthday and his 60th year in the entertainment industry at UCLA's Royce Hall.

"He was very passionate about his Persian heritage," said Milanian, recalling that Badiyi could recite Persian poetry by heart. "Even though he moved away from Iran, he was still very connected to his community."

Badiyi was born April 17, 1930, in Arak, Iran. He graduated from the Academy of Drama in Iran, for which he received a Gold Medal from the Shah of Iran for his acting.

"Later on, I went from acting to cinematography and had the honor of being the shah's personal cinematographer and traveled all over the country with him," he recalled in a 2009 interview with Iran Times International.

He made 21 documentaries before moving to the United States, including "Flood in Khuzestan," which was selected by the Red Cross for screening internationally to generate awareness of the disastrous flooding in the Iranian province. It also earned him the Golden Ribbon of Art from the shah.

"When the U.S. State Department saw the documentary, they invited me to come to the U.S. to study filmmaking," he recalled in the 2009 interview.

After studying filmmaking at Syracuse University, Badiyi moved to Kansas City, Mo., to work at Calvin Co., a major industrial film production company, where he met a young director named Robert Altman.

Altman, Badiyi said in the 2009 interview, became his best friend and mentor.

Badiyi was assistant director on the low-budget 1957 film "The Delinquents," which marked Altman's feature film debut as a director.

Badiyi was once married to actress and writer Barbara Turner and was stepfather to actress Jennifer Jason Leigh.

He is survived by his third wife, Tania; his children, Mimi, Mina, Alexis and Natasha; two brothers, four sisters; and two grandchildren.

dennis.mclellan@latimes.com

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