John G. Avildsen, who directed “Rocky” and “The Karate Kid,” died of cancer today at the age of 81. A legal representative confirmed his death.
Avildsen was known for 2 things – underdog stories and films that weren’t expected to be hits…but ended up defining a generation.
“Rocky,” a film starring Sylvester Stallone, was famously “scripted on an apple crate” and not expected to last long in theaters…but received Oscar acclaim and is known as one of the greatest all-time sports films.
“The Karate Kid” told a similar story of a bullied teenager whose brilliant sensei, Mr. Miyagi, teaches him to out-punch, out-think and out-compete the best martial arts students in Los Angeles.
Avildsen won several Oscars for best picture and film editing, and was nominated in several other categories.
“We were greatly saddened to learn of the passing of beloved director John Avildsen. His iconic ‘Rocky,’ which won the DGA Feature Film Award in 1976, has been lionized throughout our culture as the quintessential underdog story,” reads a statement from the Hollywood Director’s Guild.
“Throughout the decades, his rousing portrayals of victory, courage and emotion captured the hearts of generations of Americans.”