'Rocky,' Karate Kid' Director John G. Avildsen Dies

'Rocky,' Karate Kid' Director John G. Avildsen Dies

Variety reports that John G. Avildsen, an Oscar-winning director with a celebrated knack for capturing the stories of beloved underdogs, has died.

Avildsen's son, anthony, told the Los Angeles Times that he died of pancreatic cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Stallone, who also worked with Avildsen in "Rocky V", took to Instagram to pay tribute to the veteran filmmaker.

Avildsen won the Academy Award for best director for Rocky while the film was named best picture and other successes included the The Karate Kid series in the 1980s.

The director found himself at the helm of another big franchise when he directed 1984'sThe Karate Kid starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita.

Surprisingly, Avildsen only took the job because he didn't get funding for another movie he was set to direct, he said in an interview in 2000, "My friend sent me this ("Rocky") script and got me to read it, And on the third page, this guy is talking to his turtles, and I was hooked". His 1973 film Save the Tiger won an Oscar for lead actor Jack Lemmon who played a dress manufacturer.

He had been hired to direct "Saturday Night Fever" after his success with "Rocky", but was let go amid differences over his desire to make the story more upbeat than the producers had in mind.

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"He was a pretty extraordinary man in my estimation".

"It's better not to be doing something you don't want to do", Avildsen told the Los Angeles Times after he left the project. To me, that is good drama. To this day, I can still remember being in the movie theater watching Daniel Larusso, despite all odds, defeat that blonde-haired jerk Johnny with one kick and win the tournament.

Many prominent faces of movies directed by John G. Avildsen are paying their heart-felt tribute to the deceased director. "And the opposite would be too depressing".

Originally from Oak Park, Illinois, John is survived by sons Anthony, Jonathan, and Ashley and a daughter, Bridget.

The late Associated Press writer Bob Thomas contributed to this report.

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