John G. Avildsen, who won an Academy Award for directing Rocky and helmed the first three original Karate Kid movies, has died. He was 81.
Avildsen died of pancreatic cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his son, Anthony, told the Los Angeles Times.
Avildsen also won the DGA Award for directing “Rocky,” which also won Oscars for best picture and film editing and was nominated in multiple other categories.
In 2006 Variety interviewed Avildsen, who said that a film with a boxing story didn’t excite him at first, but he was “moved by the urban character study of Sylvester Stallone’s script.” He held out on directing part two in lieu of another project — a decision that Avildsen said was “one of my greatest mistakes.” He returned to the franchise to direct 1990’s “Rocky V.”
In 1983 he was Oscar nominated again, this time for the documentary short “Traveling Hopefully.”
Avildsen also directed Susan Sarandon and Peter Boyle in the ultimately violent drama Joe (1970); guided Jack Lemmon to the Academy Award for best actor in Save the Tiger (1973) in a story about a businessman having a mid-life crisis; and kept things together on the set of The Formula (1980), which starred the temperamental actors George C. Scott and Marlon Brando.
Avildsen also called the shots on The Karate Kid (1984), the inspirational film that starred Pat Morita as an Okinawan martial arts master who agrees to teach karate to a bullied teenager (Ralph Macchio), then stayed on for the sequels in 1986 and 1989.