Rocky Director John G. Avildsen Dies, Aged 81

John G. Avildsen

John G. Avildsen, a gifted (and Oscar-winning) director known for making two Rocky movies and all three [Karate Kid](http://www.empireonline.com/movies/karate-kid/) films, died on Friday. He was 81.

Born in Oak Park, Illinois, Avildsen attended The Hotchkiss School and New York University. He got his start in film working as an assistant director to Arthur Penn and Otto Preminger, and as a cinematographer.

Moving up to direct his own films, he first made Turn On To Love, but had his initial taste of success with 1970's Joe. Oscar success for Jack Lemmon on Save The Tiger boosted the director's career further and he scored the chance to work on Rocky with writer/star Sylvester Stallone. The rest is history, including a Best Director Oscar. "I owe just about everything to John Avildsen,"Stallone said in a statement. "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."

Forging a career making movies about underdogs, he had a successful run of films, including all of the initial three Karate Kid movies, The Formula, Neighbors, For Keeps?, Lean On Me and The Stoolie.

He's survived by his daughter, Bridget, and sons Anthony, Jonathan and Ashley.