Richard Donner, director of Superman and The Goonies, dies aged 91

Richard Donner, the prolific Hollywood director and producer who helmed some of the biggest hit films of the 1970s and 80s including Superman and The Goonies, has died aged 91.

Donner died on Monday, his wife, the film producer Lauren Shuler Donner, told Deadline.

Steven Spielberg, who wrote the story for The Goonies, paid tribute to Donner, calling him “gifted across so many genres”.

Related: Richard Donner, master of macho blockbusters with a human touch

“Being in his circle was akin to hanging out with your favorite coach, smartest professor, fiercest motivator, most endearing friend, staunchest ally, and – of course – the greatest Goonie of all,” Spielberg said in a statement to Variety.

“He was all kid. All heart. All the time. I can’t believe he’s gone, but his husky, hearty laugh will stay with me always.”

The actor Danny Glover, who worked with Donner on 1987’s Lethal Weapon and all of its sequels, said in a statement: “My heart is broken.

“Working with Dick Donner, Mel Gibson and the Lethal Weapon team was one of the proudest moments of my career. I will forever be grateful to him for that,” Glover said.

Gibson called Donner “magnanimous of heart and soul, which he liberally gave to all who knew him”.

Born in the Bronx, New York, Donner began his career directing for television, with a long line of credits including The Twilight Zone, Wanted: Dead or Alive and The Man From UNCLE.

Donner’s career directing some of Hollywood’s most memorable – and bankable – feature films took off when he directed The Omen, starring Gregory Peck and Lee Remick. With a budget of $2m, the 1976 film grossed $60m in the US alone and two sequels followed.

Donner went on to direct 1978’s Superman, starring Christopher Reeve, as well as 1985’s The Goonies and the cult hit Ladyhawke.

In 2006, Donner told the Archive of American Television he “knew instantly” that Reeve could play the “man of steel” when they first met. He had been determined to cast Reeve, a relative unknown, despite there being more high-profile actors in the frame for the role. The film was a huge hit, grossing $300m worldwide.

Donner directed Lethal Weapon and its sequels, which put him among the Hollywood directors who generated more than a billion dollars in box office returns. In the AAT interview, Donner recalled that when he first brought Gibson and Glover together for a script reading, “the rest of my life was changed for the next 10 years”.

Donner married Lauren Shuler Donner in his fifties, and the pair founded The Donners’ Company, producing the hugely successful movie X-Men in 2000, and later the prequel X-Men Origins: Wolverine.