John Avildsen, director of 'Rocky' and 'Karate Kid,' dies at 81

Director John Avildsen dies at 81 won Oscar for'Rocky

John Avildsen, the Oscar-winning director who made Hollywood's quintessential underdog story in the 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 died of pancreatic cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in LA, his son, Anthony, told the Los Angeles Times.

Rocky proved to be as much of an underdog success story as the fictional Philadelphia boxer Rocky Balboa portrayed by Stallone, who wrote the screenplay.

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.

The franchise, The Karate Kid (1984), which starred Pat Morita as an Okinawan martial arts master who agrees to teach karate to a bullied teenager, brought in nearly a quarter-billion dollars at the Box Office. Avildsen returned to direct just one of his original film's six sequels, Rocky V.

He also guided Jack Lemmon to his only best actor Oscar for his role in the 1973 film Save the Tiger.

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It's almost impossible to describe just how important John G. Avildsen has been to the world of cinema.

"It's better not to be doing something you don't want to do", Avildsen told the Los Angeles Times after he left the project.

"Throughout the decades, his rousing portrayals of victory, courage and emotion captured the hearts of generations of Americans", said Paris Barclay, president of the Directors Guild of America, of the late director in a statement.

In a 1992 interview, Avildsen outlined his view of filmmaking. (1988), starring Molly Ringwald; drama "Lean on Me" (1989), which helped launch Morgan Freeman's career; and bull riding biopic "8 Seconds" (1994), starring Luke Perry. "And the opposite would be too depressing".

Besides Anthony, Avidsen is survived by two other sons, Jonathan and Ashley, and a daughter, Bridget. Coyle reported from NY.

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