John G. Avildsen, the Hollywood director best known for helming such classics as Rocky and The Karate Kid, has died. Variety reports the 81-year-old filmmaker succumbed to a battle with pancreatic cancer.
Avildsen started his directorial career in the late 1960s, and just like its lead star and writer Sylvester Stallone, finally caught his big break with beloved boxing tale Rocky. He would later return to the franchise with 1990's much derided Rocky V, but in the interim, he once again captured cinemagoers' hearts and minds with 1984's iconic Karate Kid.
Aside from two sequels to the Ralph Macchio-fronted family films, Avildsen remained relatively quiet on the directing front during the '90s. He was involved with the 1999 action movie Inferno, but after production wrapped on the Van Damme picture he stepped away from the director's chair for some 15 years, only returning in 2014 to helm the short Let Love Last.
Sylvester Stallone honoured Avildsen in the following statement:
“I owe just about everything to John Avildsen. His directing, his passion, his toughness and his heart — a great heart — is what made ‘Rocky’ the film it became. He changed my life and I will be forever indebted to him. Nobody could have done it better than my friend John Avildsen. I will miss him.”
Everyone at Gizmodo UK passes on their condolences to Avildsen's remaining family and loved ones.