‘Lethal Weapon’ Director Richard Donner’s Cause of Death Revealed

by Matthew Memrick

Authorities revealed “Lethal Weapon” director Richard Donner’s cause of death this week.

TMZ reported that the longtime director suffered from and died from heart disease on the morning of July 5. Donner was 91 at the time.

The document says Donner died at his home in West Hollywood on the morning of July 5. Officials said the immediate cause of death was a cardiopulmonary failure. The death certificate also lists atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease as an underlying cause of his passing.

Donner is survived by his wife, Lauren Shuler Donner. Together, the couple started The Donners’ Company in 1986. The film production company was behind the Free Willy and the X-Men film series.

Actress Shares Donner Story, Said He Believed In Her

After Donner’s passing, Rene Russo shared a few kind words about the late director. She told Variety that Donner’s words helped her believe in herself for her “Lethal Weapon 3” role. The former model felt her past work didn’t help her for the part, but she tried anyway.

“I walked on the set the first day,” Russo said. “I was so nervous that the first scene, I kid you not, I blew my lines four times in a row. But Dick just laughed and got me through it. He made me believe I could do this.” 

Russo said she always remembers Donner’s warm manner. After the movie, she came to know more about the longtime director. When he compared her to his wife, Lauren, she said she knew it was a good thing.

“He was bigger than life,” the actress said. “But he was so kind and so easy that it wasn’t intimidating. He had a gentle spirit and this sense of humor that put you at ease.”

Donner’s “Lethal Weapon” movies made more than $900 worldwide, according to Deadline.com.

In another tribute, former actor Gene Hackman shared a moment he had with Donner. Hackman told the Hollywood Reporter about a mustachioed story. 

“I showed up for the first day of make-up tests for Superman with a fine Lex Luthor mustache I’d grown for the role,” the actor said. “Dick, wearing his own handsome mustache, told me mine had to go. He bargained to lose his if I did mine. True to his word, he celebrated my last razor stroke by gleefully pulling off the fake whiskers he’d acquired for the occasion. Dick made it fun, and that’s why the films turned out that way, too.”

‘Lethal Weapon’ Director Donner Had Many Successes

Donner’s 50-year career started with TV series work. He worked with hit shows like “Kojak,” “Gillian’s Island,” “Get Smart” and “The Fugitive.” Famously, he directed William Shatner in the “Twilight Zone” episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”

Charles Bronson and Mary Tyler Moore starred in his first film, “X-15” (1961), but “The Omen” in 1976 made him a noticeable director. From there, he found more success with “Superman,” “The Goonies,” the “Lethal Weapon” movie series, and “Scrooged.”