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John G Avildsen, ‘Rocky’ and ‘Karate Kid’ Director, Dies at 81

Filmmaker won an Oscar for directing the original ”Rocky“ starring Sylvester Stallone in 1976

Oscar winning-director John G. Avildsen has died in Los Angeles, according to Los Angeles Times. He was 81.

Avildsen won an Academy Award for directing the original 1976 “Rocky” starring Sylvester Stallone, and went on to direct all three of the original “Karate Kid” films. Avildsen also won the DGA Award for directing “Rocky,” which earned Oscars for best picture and film editing, and was nominated in multiple other categories.

A representative for Avildsen did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

The highly-acclaimed filmmaker developed a reputation for making masterful movies about underdogs who become winners.

Avildsen was once again nominated for an Oscar in 1983 for the documentary short “Traveling Hopefully.” He later retuned to the “Rocky” franchise for the fifth installment in 1990.


Born in Oak Park, Illinois, Avildsen graduated from the prestigious Hotchkiss School and NYU. He started out in the film industry as an assistant director on movies by Arthur Penn and Otto Preminger.

Avildsen’s eldest son, Anthony, said his father died of pancreatic cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

A documentary on the director’s life and career, “John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs” (2016), directed and produced by Derek Wayne Johnson, features interviews with Stallone, “Karate Kid” star Ralph Macchio, Martin Scorsese, Jerry Weintraub and Burt Reynolds. The documentary is a companion to the book “The Films of John G. Avildsen: Rocky, The Karate Kid, and Other Underdogs,” written by Larry Powell and Tom Garrett.

Avildsen is survived by a daughter, Bridget, and sons Anthony, Jonathan and Ashley.

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