Richard Donner may have created the modern superhero movie with 1978's "Superman" and revitalized the buddy comedy with "Lethal Weapon," but his colleagues say his big-hearted kindness is what truly sets him apart.
Actor Corey Feldman said Donner paid for his rehab years after they worked together on "The Goonies." Another "Goonies" star revealed Donner covered his college tuition. Other entertainers, including Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Rene Russo and Carol Kane, lauded the filmmaker's magnanimity Wednesday at a film academy tribute to the 87-year-old Donner.
Kane, who starred with Bill Murray in 1988's "Scrooged," called Donner "a creative guidance counselor in the most nourishing way."
"You were charming and funny and witty and all these amazing (things), but the thing that killed me is you were kind," Russo told the director. "You were so kind, and that's what makes you the sexiest man in the world."
The filmmaker's wife and collaborator, Lauren Shuler Donner, also referred to him as "the sexiest man alive." She said his personality shows in his movies, describing her husband as "fun, larger than life, loud, strong, with a big mushy heart."
She said they met while making 1985's "Ladyhawke," when she was an aspiring producer fresh off a divorce.
Warm personal anecdotes dominated the nearly 2 ?-hour program at the film academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater, punctuated by clips from "The Goonies," ''Scrooged," ''The Omen," ''Radio Flyer" and, of course, "Superman."
Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and DC Entertainment president Geoff Johns, the two men responsible for the last decade of superhero blockbusters, both worked for Donner when they were starting out in Hollywood.
"'Superman' the movie is still, to this day, the archetype of the perfect superhero film origin story," Feige said, adding that his staff at Marvel watches it before embarking on most projects. "I hope you don't bemoan the fact that that film has inspired all of these movies."
They showed the clip where Superman (Christopher Reeve) rescues Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) as she and a helicopter fall from a tall building. Feige called it "the best cinematic superhero save in the history of film."
Video tributes came from Jodie Foster and Martha Plimpton, who introduced herself as "Plimpy." She was among many actors who said Donner had changed her life. Gibson and Glover said the same.
Sitting between the two "Lethal Weapon" stars, Donner said of the speakers feting him, "They changed my life; I didn't change theirs."
Listening to the tributes, he said it was hard to believe he was the one they were talking about. "I never thought I would say this, but I want to thank the academy," he said. "You guys are all my Oscar."
"What I've gotten out of this industry is extraordinary," Donner said, visibly moved. "But I just want to say the greatest thing I did get out of this industry was Lauren Shuler Donner... I can't say in words how much you mean to me. Words weren't written."