Richard Donner

Director


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-and-a-half-hour Archive interview, Richard Donner talks about his start as an actor in New York and the career-changing moment when director Martin Ritt told him that he should work behind-the-camera as his assistant. Donner describes his start as a director, working in commercials and documentaries initially for George Blake, then for his own company. He recalls his transition to Los Angeles where he directed commercials with the cast of I Love Lucy. He recounts his work for several studios as a television director in the 1960s on Wanted: Dead or Alive (with Steve McQueen), Wagon Train (in an episode guest-starring Bette Davis), The Loretta Young Show, The Hathaways (a series featuring three chimpanzees), Gilligan's Island, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Fugitive, and, most notably, The Twilight Zone. Donner outlines the challenges of directing the memorable Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," in which William Shatner sees a gremlin on the wing of an airplane. He talks of his early forays into feature filmmaking and his return to television each time, feeling that he was not ready to make the jump. He remembers working on '70s projects The Banana Splits Hour and the acclaimed television movie Sarah T.— Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic, before his breakthrough success in movies with "The Omen." Donner then chronicles the development and casting of hits "Superman," "The Goonies," and "Lethal Weapon." He also describes his later work in television as a producer-director of the television series Tales From the Crypt. Stephen J. Abramson conducted the interview on June 22, 2006 in Beverly Hills, California.

"If I came on to direct a running series it could be a drag because you couldn't change the characters, the lead characters, the sustaining characters. You didn't want to create a whole new visual style because it was established. But the anthologies and pilots I loved doing- on those you could always try something new and different."

Highlights
Richard Donner on directing The Loretta Young Show
03:54
Richard Donner on the technical challenges of The Twilight Zone 's "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"
01:21
Richard Donner on the practical joke played on him on the set of The Twilight Zone 's "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" by star William Shatner and Edd Byrnes (actor and husband to "Nightmare" co-star Asa Maynor) 
01:25
Richard Donner on "sneaking" messages into his movies
00:47
Richard Donner on directing Kojak
04:02
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on his acting career; on his first television job
14:36
On his military service; on directing commercials; on his memories of live television and his first television set
13:37

Chapter 2

On the Hollywood Blacklist; on directing Steve McQueen in Wanted: Dead or Alive
16:49
On directing Wagon Train; on directing Have Gun, Will Travel
11:27

Chapter 3

On directing The Loretta Young Show; on directing The Hathaways; on how he came to direct The Twilight Zone
10:38
On directing the classic Twilight Zone episode, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet;" on directing various other Twilight Zone episodes
17:58

Chapter 4

On the legacy of The Twilight Zone; on making the transition from directing television to directing features
18:07
On directing the feature film "The Omen;" on directing Get Smart and Gilligan's Island
10:16

Chapter 5

On directing Gilligan's Island and The Banana Splits Adventure Hour; on directing Kojak
16:34
On directing various episodic television shows in the '60s and '70s
12:08

Chapter 6

On directing Sarah T. Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic; on directing the feature film "The Omen;" on directing the feature film "Superman"
16:19
On how his training directing for television helped him in features; on directing the feature films "Inside Moves" and "The Goonies;" on directing the "Lethal Weapon" film franchise
11:42

Chapter 7

On directing the feature "Maverick" and producing and directing Tales from the Crypt
08:14
On then-current projects; on his wife, Lauren Shuler Donner; on how he'd like to be remembered
10:18
Shows

Banana Splits Adventure Hour, The

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Richard Donner on directing the Banana Splits Adventure Hour
06:15

Cannon

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Richard Donner on various episodic television shows he directed in the '70s
11:18

Combat!

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Richard Donner on various episodic television shows he directed in the '70s
11:18

Fugitive, The

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Richard Donner on various episodic television shows he directed in the '70s
11:18

Get Smart

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Richard Donner on directing Get Smart and Gilligan's Island
04:06

Gilligan's Island

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Richard Donner on directing Get Smart and Gilligan's Island
04:06
Richard Donner on directing Gilligan's Island
03:39
Richard Donner on the importance of television theme songs
00:48

Hathaways, The

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Richard Donner on directing The Hathaways
01:47

Have Gun - Will Travel

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Richard Donner on directing Have Gun, Will Travel
03:32

Kojak

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Richard Donner on directing Kojak
04:02

Loretta Young Show, The

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Richard Donner on directing The Loretta Young Show
03:54

Lucas Tanner

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Richard Donner on various episodic television shows he directed in the '70s
11:18

Man From U.N.C.L.E., The

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Richard Donner on directing The Man From U.N.C.L.E (Donner incorrectly identifies Jill Ireland as Jill St. John)
03:00

Perry Mason

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Richard Donner on various episodic television shows he directed in the '70s
11:18

Rifleman, The

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Richard Donner on various episodic television shows he directed in the '70s
11:18

Route 66

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Richard Donner on various episodic television shows he directed in the '70s
11:18

Tales from the Crypt

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Richard Donner on producing and directing Tales from the Crypt for HBO
05:14

Texaco Star Theater

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Richard Donner on his first memory of television, watching Texaco Star Theater
03:13

Twilight Zone, The

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Richard Donner on how he came to direct for MGM and The Twilight Zone
03:49
Richard Donner on the short shooting schedule of The Twilight Zone 's "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"
00:54
Richard Donner on the technical challenges of The Twilight Zone 's "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"
01:21
Richard Donner on the practical joke played on him on the set of The Twilight Zone 's "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" by star William Shatner and Edd Byrnes (actor and husband to "Nightmare" co-star Asa Maynor) 
01:25
Richard Donner on working with actor William Shatner on The Twilight Zone 's "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"
00:37
Richard Donner on the potential he saw in the script of The Twilight Zone 's "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," and his own style of creating a reality for his work
00:53
Richard Donner on working with actor Wally Cox on The Twilight Zone 's "From Agnes — with Love"
01:35
Richard Donner on directing various Twilight Zone episodes
04:48
Richard Donner on the legacy of The Twilight Zone
03:34
Richard Donner on directing various episodes of The Twilight Zone
03:57

Twilight Zone, The: "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"

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Richard Donner on the short shooting schedule of The Twilight Zone 's "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"
00:54
Richard Donner on the technical challenges of The Twilight Zone 's "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"
01:21
Richard Donner on the practical joke played on him on the set of The Twilight Zone 's "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" by star William Shatner and Edd Byrnes (actor and husband to "Nightmare" co-star Asa Maynor) 
01:25
Richard Donner on working with actor William Shatner on The Twilight Zone 's "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"
00:37
Richard Donner on the potential he saw in the script of The Twilight Zone 's "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," and his own style of creating a reality for his work
00:53
Richard Donner on the legacy of The Twilight Zone
03:34

Wagon Train

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Richard Donner on directing the series Wagon Train
05:02

Wanted: Dead or Alive

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Richard Donner on directing Wanted: Dead or Alive and his relationship with Steve McQueen
07:56
Richard Donner on working with Steve McQueen on Wanted: Dead or Alive
02:33
Richard Donner on shooting stunts for Wanted: Dead or Alive
01:31
Topics

Classic TV series episodes

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Richard Donner on directing the classic Twilight Zone  episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"
08:56

Hollywood Blacklist

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Richard Donner on the Hollywood Blacklist and Martin Ritt
03:08

Industry Crossroads

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Richard Donner on the Hollywood Blacklist and Martin Ritt
03:08

Pop Culture

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Richard Donner on directing the classic Twilight Zone  episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"
08:56
Richard Donner on the importance of television theme songs
00:48

TV Theme Songs

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Richard Donner on the importance of television theme songs
00:48

TV's Golden Age (1940s & '50s)

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Richard Donner on his experience in live television
01:53

Technological Innovation

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Richard Donner on technology's affect on film and television
01:58
Professions

Directors

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Richard Donner on the short shooting schedule and technical challenges of directing The Twilight Zone 's "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"
04:04
Richard Donner on making the transition from directing television to directing features
10:36
Richard Donner on how directing for television helped him shoot "Superman" and "Superman II" simultaneously
01:06
Richard Donner on advice to aspiring directors
00:42
Genres

Adventure/Espionage Series

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Richard Donner on directing The Man From U.N.C.L.E  (Donner incorrectly identifies Jill Ireland as Jill St. John)
03:00

Children's Programming

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Richard Donner on directing The Banana Splits Adventure Hour
06:15

Classic Anthology Series

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Richard Donner on directing The Loretta Young Show
03:54
Richard Donner on directing The Twilight Zone
21:47
Richard Donner directing The Twilight Zone
07:31
Richard Donner on producing and directing Tales from the Crypt  for HBO
05:14

Comedy Series

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Richard Donner on directing Get Smart  and Gilligan's Island
04:06
Richard Donner on directing Gilligan's Island
05:14

Commercials

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Richard Donner on opening his own commercial company
03:51

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

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Richard Donner on directing Kojak
04:02

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

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Richard Donner on directing the made-for-television movie Sarah T. Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic
03:12

Western Series

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Richard Donner on directing Wanted: Dead or Alive
12:26
Richard Donner on directing the series Wagon Train
07:56
Richard Donner on directing Have Gun, Will Travel
03:32
People

Don Adams

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Richard Donner on directing Get Smart and Gilligan's Island
04:06

Desi Arnaz

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Richard Donner on opening his own commercial company
03:51

Lucille Ball

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Richard Donner on opening his own commercial company
03:51

Milton Berle

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Richard Donner on his first memory of television
03:13

Wally Cox

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Richard Donner on working with actor Wally Cox on The Twilight Zone 's "From Agnes — with Love"
01:35

Bette Davis

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Richard Donner on directing the series Wagon Train
05:02

Bob Denver

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Richard Donner on directing Get Smart and Gilligan's Island
04:06

Peter Falk

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Richard Donner on directing the pilot of The Trials of O'Brien with Peter Falk
01:03

Jodie Foster

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Richard Donner on directing the feature film "Maverick"
03:01

Mel Gibson

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Richard Donner on directing the "Lethal Weapon" series of feature films and working with Mel Gibson
05:27
Richard Donner on directing the feature film "Maverick"
03:01

Alan Hale, Jr.

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Richard Donner on directing Get Smart and Gilligan's Island
04:06

Cloris Leachman

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Richard Donner on his experience in live television
02:53

Steve McQueen

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Richard Donner on directing Wanted: Dead or Alive and his relationship with Steve McQueen
07:56
Richard Donner on working with Steve McQueen on Wanted: Dead or Alive
02:33
Richard Donner on shooting stunts for Wanted: Dead or Alive
01:31

Christopher Reeve

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Richard Donner on directing the feature film "Superman" and working with Christopher Reeve
08:17

Martin Ritt

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Richard Donner on the Hollywood Blacklist and Martin Ritt
03:08

Telly Savalas

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Richard Donner on directing Kojak
04:02

William Shatner

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Richard Donner on working with actor William Shatner on The Twilight Zone 's "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"
00:37

Steven Spielberg

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Richard Donner on directing the feature film "The Goonies"
03:09

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