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'Rocky,' 'Karate Kid' director John G Avildsen dies at 81

Oscar-winning filmmaker John G Avildsen, best known for directing films like Rocky and Karate Kid, has died. He was 81. The filmmaker died of pancreatic cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center here, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Famous for bringing on screen the stories of underdogs and long shots who persevered and ultimately triumphed, Avildsen won a directing Oscar for Rocky, which starred Sylvester Stallone as the titular Philadelphia boxer. Avildsen also directed Susan Sarandon and Peter Boyle in the ultimately violent drama Joe (1970); guided Jack Lemmon to the Academy Award for best actor in Save the Tiger (1973) in a story about a businessman having a mid-life crisis; and kept things together on the set of The Formula (1980), which starred the temperamental actors George C Scott and Marlon Brando.

The filmmaker also helmed The Karate Kid (1984), the inspirational movie that starred Pat Morita as an Okinawan martial arts master who agrees to teach karate to a bullied teenager (Ralph Macchio), then stayed on for the sequels in 1986 and 1989. Stallone remembered the late director on social media.

"Mr Miyagi was the ideal surrogate father that everybody wished they had," Avildsen said in the Sun piece. "He was wise, he was generous, he was funny. He was a fairy godmother. And Pat Morita brought him to life, he was ideal. Who could be better?"

"The great director John G. Avildsen who won the Oscar for directing Rocky! R I P. I'm sure you will soon be directing Hits in Heaven – Thank you , Sly," he wrote.
Macchio tweeted, "RIP to my friend and KK director John G Avildsen. He brought inspirational stories to us all and had a guiding hand in changing my life."

A native of Oak Park, Ill, Avildsen started out as a cinematographer, and he shot his directorial debut, Turn on to Love (1969). He was also the subject of a documentary, John G Avildsen: King of the Underdogs, that premiered this year at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
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