Hollywood is mourning the death of John G. Avildsen, the Oscar-winning director of “Rocky” who died Friday at age 81. Paying tribute to a long career that included classics like “The Karate Kid,” Avildsen’s peers noted his artistic legacy and character.
“I owe just about everything to John Avildsen,” “Rocky” screenwriter-star Sylvester Stallone said in a statement. “His directing, his passion, his toughness and his heart — a great heart — is what made ‘Rocky’ the film it became. He changed my life and I will be forever indebted to him. Nobody could have done it better than my friend John Avildsen. I will miss him.”
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of my friend and ‘The Karate Kid’ director John G. Avildsen,” said Ralph Macchio in a statement provided to TheWrap. “His earlier films, ‘Rocky”‘and ‘Save The Tiger’ helped influence my adolescence. His guidance in the creation of Daniel LaRusso and direction in ‘The Karate Kid’ became an influence that changed my life. There are countless examples where his guiding hand created much of the magic we were able to achieve on screen. My thoughts are with his family and close friends. He will be missed.”
Avildsen was also praised by “Rocky” co-star Carl Weathers, who called him “a quiet and generous talent.”
“We mourn the loss of John G. Avildsen, one of America’s treasured filmmakers,” said Gary Barber, MGM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, in a statement. “Everyone remembers the first time when they saw ‘Rocky.’ For over 40 years, the enduring classic underdog story about an every man overcoming all odds defined generations of moviegoers. He will always be remembered by his MGM family.”
“We were greatly saddened to learn of the passing of beloved director John Avildsen,” the Directors Guild of America said about the Academy Award-winner in a statement.
“Throughout the decades, his rousing portrayals of victory, courage and emotion captured the hearts of generations of Americans.”
Read the full statement below.
DGA Statement on the Passing of John Avildsen
“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 – a recurring theme in his notable body of work which included Save the Tiger and The Karate Kid franchise. Throughout the decades, his rousing portrayals of victory, courage and emotion captured the hearts of generations of Americans.
“A prolific director, John always found the time to give back to his Guild – from his service on our National Board as First Vice President and Assistant Treasurer, to his work on the Eastern and Western Directors Councils and DGA Negotiating Committee – advancing and protecting the creative and economic rights of directors. Our hearts go out to his family and friends during this difficult time.”
DGA Service and Awards:
John Avildsen joined the DGA in 1966. He served on the DGA’s National Board for three terms, serving as Assistant Treasurer from 1977-1978 and as First Vice President from 1978-1981. He also served on the DGA’s Eastern Directors Council from 1977-1990, on the Western Directors Council from 1992-1994, and was a member of the 1987 and 1996 DGA Negotiating Committees. He won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film in 1976 for Rocky.
Read on for other tributes.