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John Avildsen, Oscar-winning director of Rocky, dead at 81
John Avildsen, the Oscar-winning director who made Hollywood’s quintessential underdog story in 1976 boxing saga ‘Rocky with a then-unknown Sylvester Stallone, and crafted another inspiring tale in ‘The Karate Kid,’ died on Friday at age 81, his family said.
Avildsen had been suffering pancreatic cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, his son, Anthony, said by phone.
Avildsen won the Academy Award for best director for ‘Rocky’ while the film was named best picture and other successes included the ‘The Karate Kid’ series in the 1980s. He directed seven actors to Oscar nominations.
“They told me James Bond doesn’t die. Superman doesn’t die. Rocky doesn’t die,” Avildsen told USA Today in 2014. “So Rocky didn’t die. But the movie died.”
Avildsen also directed Burt Reynolds in the likable caper ‘W W and the Dixie Dancekings’ (1975), George C Scott and Marlon Brando in the thriller ‘The Formula’ (1980), Morgan Freeman in school drama ‘Lean on Me’ (1989) and the apartheid tale ‘The Power of One’ (1992).
Avildsen was born on December 21, 1935, in Oak Park, Illinois. After serving in the military, he made industrial films for companies and worked as an assistant to directors, including Otto Preminger before directing his first film in 1969, ‘Turn On to Love.’