Richard Donner tributes pour in from filmmakers: Spielberg, Gibson, Wright, Mangold

A headshot of a man with white hair wearing a white shirt and black sports coat
Richard Donner arrives at a Beverly Hills tribute in his honor in 2017.
(Jordan Strauss / Invision / AP)

Richard Donner, the filmmaker best known for his effortless mix of action and comedy in the “Lethal Weapon” series, “Superman” and “The Goonies,” died Monday in Los Angeles at age 91, his family said through a Warner Bros. spokesperson. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Steven Spielberg, who was executive producer and has story credit on the 1985 hit “The Goonies,” posted a tribute to Donner, saying, “Dick had such a powerful command of his movies, and was so gifted across so many genres. Being in his circle was akin to hanging out with your favorite coach, smartest professor, fiercest motivator, most endearing friend, staunchest ally, and — of course — the greatest Goonie of all.”

The filmmaker who turned Christopher Reeve into ‘Superman’ and Mel Gibson and Danny Glover into cop buddies in ‘Lethal Weapon’ has died.

July 5, 2021

Mel Gibson, star of four “Lethal Weapon” movies, all directed by Donner, as well as the director’s “Conspiracy Theory” and “Maverick,” released a statement Monday: “Donner! My friend, my mentor. Oh, the things I learned from him! He undercut his own talent and greatness with a huge chunk of humility referring to himself as ‘merely a traffic cop.’ He left his ego at the door and required that of others. He was magnanimous of heart and soul, which he liberally gave to all who knew him.”


It spoke to Donner’s tremendous standing within the Hollywood filmmaking community that at a 2017 tribute put on by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, representatives from Marvel and DC — typically seen as opposing poles in the comic-book movie realm — took to a podium together to talk about Donner’s impact on contemporary superhero movies.

Actor Sean Astin, who was in “The Goonies,” took to Twitter to write, “What I perceived in him, as a 12-year-old kid, is that he cared. I love how much he cared.”

Astin included a line he spoke in the movie, which became a rallying cry for fans of the film: “Goonies never say die.”

Among Donner’s other films were 1976’s “The Omen” and 1988’s “Scrooged.” Following a successful career directing for television, including working on “The Fugitive,” “Get Smart,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “Kojak” and the “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” episode of “The Twilight Zone,” Donner directed his first feature film in 1961 with “X-15,” starring Mary Tyler Moore and Charles Bronson.

Those who paid tribute to Donner on Monday included directors Edgar Wright, James Mangold, Kevin Smith, Peter Ramsey and J.A. Bayona, screenwriter Gary Whitta and poster artist Drew Struzan.

“To my mind this word captures the first priority and goal of a film director, regardless of genre or style,” tweeted Mangold, who included an illustration of Superman holding a banner with the word “verisimilitude.” “And Dick Donner achieved it time and time again, in all sorts of films. It’s not easy. It takes artistry. RIP Richard Donner.”

Bayona wrote: “Over the years I knew I didn’t want to be Superman: I wanted to be Richard Donner. And thanks to him, I am who I am today.
Rest In Peace.”