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

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Avildsen's son Anthony told USA media the filmmaker had died of pancreatic cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

The 1976 film became a phenomenon that won Oscars for best picture as well as for Avildsen as director.

The 1984 film tells the story of a teenager hounded by bullies, who learns karate from a Japanese handyman and takes on his bully in a karate contest - and wins. The renowned director directed the popular movie Rocky and the first three parts of original Karate Kid movies. "He makes you feel good about what you're doing". (The film reportedly inspired the softer-edged bigots in shows like Norman Lear's All In The Family, and the positive reaction to the character by moviegoers who identified with Joe, instead of being reviled by him, caused Boyle to renounce violent roles.) Avildsen followed Joe with the 1973 morality play Save The Tiger, which earned Jack Lemmon an Academy Award for his depiction of a desperate, ethically tortured businessman.

He also had his share of career setbacks, directing some clunkers and being fired as director of 1970s classics Saturday Night Fever and Serpico because of disputes with producers.

Calling Avildsen "my friend" along with a collage of photos, Macchio says the director "brought inspirational stories to us all and had a guiding hand in changing my life".


The Directors Guild of America paid tribute to Alvidsen, saying: "Throughout the decades, his rousing portrayals of victory, courage and emotion captured the hearts of generations of Americans". In a statement, his son Anthony Avildsen described him as an extraordinary man who was super talented and very stubborn, which was like a double-edged quality about him.

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). I guess I just like to see underdogs winning against the odds. "And the opposite would be too depressing". He has three sons, Jonathan, Ashley and Anthony, and a daughter Bridget.

The late Associated Press writer Bob Thomas contributed to this report. If you would like to discuss another topic, look for a relevant article.

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