Shared from the 2017-06-18 Chattanooga eEdition

Director John Avildsen dies at 81; won Oscar for ‘Rocky’

LOS ANGELES — John G. Avildsen, who directed “Rocky” and “The Karate Kid” — two dark-horse, underdog favorites that went on to become Hollywood franchises — died Friday at age 81.

Anthony Avildsen said his father died Friday in Los Angeles from pancreatic cancer.

“Rocky” was a huge success. It won Oscars for best picture, director [Avildsen] and editing and was nominated for seven others.

“The Karate Kid” was another surprise hit.

Released in the summer of 1984, the film attracted millions of youngsters and brought Noryuki “Pat” Morita, a veteran performer best known for his TV roles, an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor.

John Guilbert Avildsen was born in 1935 in Oak Park, Ill., the son of a tool manufacturer. He attended New York University, then worked as an advertising copywriter. He spent two years in the Army as a chaplain’s assistant.

A documentary on Avildsen, “John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs,” premiered earlier this year at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

The film, which is to be released digitally in August, was shot by Anthony Avildsen.

“He was a pretty extraordinary man in my estimation,” said Avildsen. “He was super talented and very driven and very stubborn and that was to his detriment but also often to his benefit.”

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