Director John Avildsen dies at 81; won Oscar for 'Rocky'

John G. Avildsen, 'Rocky,' 'The Karate Kid' Director, Dead at 81

John G. Avildsen, 'Rocky,' 'The Karate Kid' Director, Dead at 81

John G Avildsen, who won an Oscar for directing the 1976 "Rocky", starring Sylvester Stallone, has passed away.

His eldest son, Anthony, told the Los Angeles Times his father died of pancreatic cancer.

Avildsen came up the hard way in films, starting with a long apprenticeship as assistant director, then moved up to production manager, cinematographer and editor.

It's almost impossible to describe just how important John G. Avildsen has been to the world of cinema.

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Avildsen received his first directing success with Joe (1970), a drama in which Susan Sarandon made her film debut. The actioner also reunited Avildsen with Karate Kid franchise star Pat Morita.

The director was also the subject of a recent documentary, John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs, which is now screening at various film festivals.

Rocky wasn't Avildsen's only underdog story that became a major franchise. A few years later, he would direct Jack Lemmon to a Best Actor Oscar with 1973's Save the Tiger. Nobody could have done it better than my friend John Avildsen. He was not the director of choice for Rocky but bagged it after another film got cancelled.

Another underdog film, "The Karate Kid", was also an unexpected success at the box office and spawned a series of films, a sequel and a remake. In 1983, he got an Oscar nomination for his documentary Traveling Hopefully.

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It's a break from past practice that Mattis said will enable him to more effectively manage the war effort. The decision is similar to one announced in April that applied to US troop levels in Iraq and Syria .

Stallone took to Instagram to pay tribute to Mr Avildsen, who helped usher the actor to stardom: "R. I. P".

"As soon as the producers saw the business it was doing, they wanted to do it again", Avildsen said in a 1986 interview. Thanks for so much John G. Avildsen. He left quite a nice legacy of films including "The Karate Kid", "Lean on Me", the original "Neighbors" with Aykroyd and Belushi. I guess I just like to see underdogs winning against the odds.

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

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