July 8, 2021
Directors Guild of America President Thomas Schlamme made the following statement regarding the recent passing of director Richard Donner:
âOur world is noticeably sadder with the loss of legendary filmmaker Richard Donner. Dick was the kind of director we all admired – inventive, creative, and respected throughout the industry and by his peers. He has made some of the most iconic productions on the big and small screen that will always be remembered, scaring audiences halfway to death with his classic fuzzy area ‘Nightmare at 20,000ft’ episode to make them believe that a man could fly with his brilliant 1978 blockbuster Superman. ”
âIn addition to his cultural contributions to film and television, Donner was a proud advocate for the creative rights of directors. He served on the Guild’s theatrical rights committee and fought hard to ensure directors were properly credited for their work. The directors and officers of the Guild knew they could count on Dick’s wisdom and thoughtful solutions to deal with creative rights issues. We have lost a true friend of the DGA. Our sincere condolences to his family and friends, as well as to the many people who loved him.
DGA services and career highlights
A member of the DGA since 1958, Donner has been actively involved in the Guild’s creative rights issues throughout his career and has served on the Creative Rights Committee.
Born Richard Donald Schwartzberg in the Bronx, New York in 1930, Donner joined the Navy after high school and became an aerial photographer for a small carrier. His interest in photography grew in the service and after his release he began working for a number of small industrial companies. Working as a truck driver, set painter and assistant editor, he learned a variety of positions around the filmmaking profession. His experience in multiple jobs led him to work with director George Blake, who ultimately gave him his first shot making industrial films, documentaries and commercials in his company. He will then direct commercials under an exclusive contract for Desilu Productions. Donner’s success in commercials caught the attention of writer and producer Ed Adamson. Adamson gave him an episode of Wanted dead or alive starring Steve McQueen, triggering his episodic television career. The 82 productions of his filmography also include feature films The omen, Maverick, Ladyhawke and the Deadly weapon series; as well as episodes of iconic TV shows such as Wanted dead or alive, Have a gun – Voyagera, The rifleman, The UNCLE man., Perry mason, Gilligan Island, The fugitive and The twilight zone, including the classic episode “Nightmare at 20,000ft”. Characteristics of Donner, Superman and The Goonies, were both selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant.