Director John Avildsen dies at 81; won Oscar for 'Rocky'

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The Oscar-winning director of "Rocky" died Friday at age 81.

Rocky (1976), starring Sylvester Stallone, won three Academy Awards: best picture, best director and best film editing.

The director found himself at the helm of another big franchise when he directed 1984'sThe Karate Kid starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita.

In 2006 Variety interviewed Avildsen, who said that a film with a boxing story didn't excite him at first, but he was "moved by the urban character study of Sylvester Stallone's script".

Another underdog film, "The Karate Kid", was also an unexpected success at the box office and spawned a series of films, a sequel and a remake.

Rocky was nominated for 10 Oscars and won three, with Stallone taking the best actor award.

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He also had his share of career setbacks, directing some clunkers and being fired as director of 1970s classics Saturday Night Fever and Serpico because of disputes with producers.

"He was a pretty extraordinary man in my estimation. He was super talented and very driven and very stubborn and that was to his detriment but also often to his benefit", Anthony was quoted sayin to

The Directors Guild of America paid tribute to Alvidsen, saying: "Throughout the decades, his rousing portrayals of victory, courage and emotion captured the hearts of generations of Americans".

Avildsen was one of the the great filmmakers, and now he is with us no more. "It's better not to be doing something you don't want to do", Avildsen told the Los Angeles Times after he departed from the project. His other films include Neighbors, The Formula, Lean on Me and For Keeps. The documentary is a companion to the book "The Films of John G. Avildsen: Rocky, The Karate Kid, and Other Underdogs", written by Larry Powell and Tom Garrett. "And the opposite would be too depressing".

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