Director John Avildsen dies at 81; won Oscar for 'Rocky'

Director John Avildsen dies at 81; won Oscar for 'Rocky'

Avildsen took the Rocky job only because funding fell through for another movie he was set to direct.

Avildsen's son Anthony said his father died on Friday (local time) in Los Angeles from pancreatic cancer.

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. Released in 1984, the film centers on a bullied teenager who gains confidence after learning karate from a Japanese handyman.

Avildsen directed the box-office victor The Karate Kid, released in 1984, as well as The Karate Kid Part II in 1986 and The Karate Kid Part III in 1989. Throughout the decades, his rousing portrayals of victory, courage and emotion captured the hearts of generations of Americans.

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Made for just $1.3 million, Rocky went on to become the highest-grossing film in 1976.

The Karate Kid' actor, Ralph Macchio, also paid tribute to the great director and tweeted, "RIP to my friend and KK director John G Avildsen".

Like Rocky, his The Karate Kid earned him both box office success and critical acclaim.

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

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"We were greatly saddened to learn of the passing of beloved director John Avildsen", the Director's Guild said a statement, according to Variety. He received an Oscar nomination in 1983 for his documentary short film Traveling Hopefully.

Avildsen was born on December 21, 1935, in Oak Park, Ill.

Other now-classic films include The Karate Kid and Lean on Me.

Stallone had written the script and wanted Avildsen to direct it, but Avildsen was already working on another film, but suddenly the production company ran out of money and that film was cancelled. A few years later, he would direct Jack Lemmon to a Best Actor Oscar with 1973's Save the Tiger.

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