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SYFY WIRE Richard Donner

Spielberg, Edgar Wright, Sean Astin & more mourn passing of Richard Donner

By Benjamin Bullard
Richard Donner

Some of the biggest creative names in science fiction — and entertainment generally — are pausing to mark the passing of a legend, reflecting with fondness on the life and extraordinary career of the late Richard Donner. The prolific director of Superman and The Goonies died on July 5, leaving behind an enormous legacy that continues to influence big-screen superhero stories even in the present day.

While directors like Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, and George Lucas were making their own marks on sci-fi film history in the 1970s and 1980s, Donner was putting an indelible stamp on the screen conventions that would come to propel superheroes and fantasy action into the movie mainstream. Spielberg, who executive produced and created the story for The Goonies (1985), described Donner as “the greatest Goonie of all” in a statement posted from the official Amblin Twitter account.

“Dick had such a powerful command of his movies, and was so gifted across so many genres,” said Spielberg. “Being in his circle was akin to hanging out with your favorite coach, smartest professor, fiercest motivator, most endearing friend, staunchest ally, and — of course — the greatest Goonie of all. He was all kid. All heart. All the time. I can’t believe he’s gone, but his husky, hearty laugh will stay with me always.”

Sean Astin, whom Donner directed as Michael "Mikey" Walsh, the Goonies’ leader, also reflected on Donner’s childlike joie de vivre, taking to Twitter to remember the iconic director’s good humor and big — yet gentle — personality. “He commanded attention and he laughed like no man has ever laughed before,” said Astin:

Kevin Smith, a genre lover with an abundance of passion for bringing comic book stories to the screen, paid tribute to Donner’s versatility and gift for transporting audiences. He “was a natural born storyteller,” Smith tweeted.

Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright offered up a three-part homage to the late director on Twitter, describing Donner’s “big heart & effervescent charm” as a creative gift that “shone in his movies through the remarkable performances of his cast, which is no mean feat.” Donner got the best from his cast, while transporting viewers away on fantastical adventures in Superman, The Goonies, Lethal Weapon, and more, said Wright, because “he knew how to capture that magic onscreen.”

The Wolverine and Logan director James Mangold also remembered Donner’s ability to make the magical seem real, answering a tweet highlighting the word “verisimilitude” imposed above an image of Superman with the observation that “Dick Donner achieved it time and time again, in all sorts of films. It's not easy. It takes artistry. RIP Richard Donner.”

The director of The Omen, Superman, The Goonies, Scrooged, the Lethal Weapon franchise and much more, Donner passed away on July 5 at the age of 91. Visit his SYFY WIRE obituary here.