Avildsen also knew zero about boxing.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Avildsen's eldest son said the director had pancreatic cancer.
Avildsen won the Academy award for Best Director when he directed Rocky that generated $225 million in domestic ticket sales and created an unforgettable cultural phenomenon. The 1984 film told the story of a teen who learns about self-confidence through the study of karate. His iconic "Rocky", which won the DGA Feature Film Award in 1976, has been lionized throughout our culture as the quintessential underdog story - a recurring theme in his notable body of work which included "Save the Tiger" and "The Karate Kid" franchise.
"Throughout the decades, his rousing portrayals of victory, courage and emotion captured the hearts of generations of Americans", said Paris Barclay, president of the Directors Guild of America, of the late director in a statement. He was not the director of choice for Rocky but bagged it after another film got cancelled.
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In accepting the Oscar for best director in March 1977, Avildsen told the audience, "I guess what Rocky did was give a lot of people hope, and there was never a better feeling than doing that".
Five sequels followed, but Avildsen turned them down until the fourth, Rocky V, in 1990.
Originally from Oak Park, Illinois, John is survived by sons Anthony, Jonathan, and Ashley and a daughter, Bridget. The film was loved by teens and got Morita, an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He left quite a nice legacy of films including "The Karate Kid", "Lean on Me", the original "Neighbors" with Aykroyd and Belushi. His 1973 film Save the Tiger won an Oscar for lead actor Jack Lemmon who played a dress manufacturer. In 2016, directed Derek Wayne Johnson made a documentary on Avildsen's life and career.