Avildsen's famous leading men are remembering their "great" director, who died Friday in Los Angeles at age 81. His son Anthony Avildsen confirmed the news of his death and said that the oscar winning director died of pancreatic cancer. 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.
Avildsen's other films included the critically hailed drama-thriller "Joe" (1970), starring Susan Sarandon and Peter Boyle.
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For his part, Avildsen said Capra, who also championed underdogs on film, was his favourite director.
Rocky wasn't Avildsen's only underdog story that became a major franchise.
Rocky was nominated for 10 Oscars and won three, with Stallone taking the best actor award. In 1983, he got an Oscar nomination for his documentary Traveling Hopefully.
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Rocky was made for a modest $1 million U.S. and generated $225 million in ticket sales to became a cultural phenomenon, with a series of unforgettable characters and scenes and a blend of romance with pugilistic action.
Avildsen was one of the the great filmmakers, and now he is with us no more.
"We were greatly saddened to learn of the passing of beloved director John Avildsen", the Director's Guild said a statement, according to Variety.
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After "Joe", Avildsen directed "Save the Tiger" (1973) starring Jack Lemmon as a burned-out dress manufacturer. He left quite a nice legacy of films including "The Karate Kid", "Lean on Me", the original "Neighbors" with Aykroyd and Belushi. Any filmmaker telling a tale of an underdog who gets their shot, or even just a story of personal redemption, or heck, a a movie in which people play sports, has watched Rocky and paid close attention. He has three sons, Jonathan, Ashley and Anthony, and a daughter Bridget.