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

LOS ANGELES (AP) — 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. No less a Hollywood eminence than Frank Capra loved it, telling The New York Times in 1977, “When I saw it, I said, ‘Boy, that’s a picture I wish I had made.’ ” For his part, Avildsen said Capra — who also championed underdogs on film — was his favorite director.

“Rocky” was a chance venture for Avildsen. Sylvester Stallone, then unknown, had written the script and sought Avildsen to direct it, but Avildsen was already…

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