Over the past week, Hollywood lost a legendary filmmaker, a beloved character actor, and a former baby actor from a major 80’s sequel. In a very special In Case You Missed It, we present a trio of tributes to these three beloved figures in the industry.
The first of these tributes is to honor legendary filmmaker John G. Avildsen (1935-2017), Academy Award-winning director best known for the 1976 epic Rocky, which earned him the Oscar, as well as the original Karate Kid trilogy from 1984 to 1989.
According to son Anthony, Avildsen lost his battle with pancreatic cancer on June 16 at the age of 81.
Avildsen, a graduate of New York University, got his start working as an assistant to legendary directors Arthur Penn and Otto Preminger before starting up his career as a prolific director. His first film, 1970’s Joe, starring the late Peter Boyle, did quite moderately and followed that up with 1973’s Save the Tiger.
However, it was the underdog story Rocky that made Avildsen a household name. The story of Rocky Balboa, written by and starring Sylvester Stallone, was a hit film and Avildsen earned the Academy Award for Best Director. This led him to be chosen as the original director of Saturday Night Fever in 1977 before clashing with producers, leading to him being replaced by John Badham.
In 1984, Avildsen struck gold with another underdog story, this time focusing on martial arts. The Karate Kid was a hit film and co-star Pat Morita was nominated for an Academy Award for his role of Mr. Miyagi, a handyman who is also an expert in karate who teaches a bullied newcomer to stand up for himself using unorthodox techniques from household chores. The film was so successful that Avildsen would direct its two official sequels in 1986 and 1989.
Avildsen and Stallone reunited to direct Rocky V in 1990 after Stallone himself directed Rocky II-IV. He directed his last film, Inferno in 1999 before retiring.
Avildsen is survived by his four children. World Film Geek sends its condolences to the family of John G. Avildsen. Here is the video of Avildsen winning his Best Director Oscar for Rocky in 1977.
Our next tribute goes out to Stephen Furst (1955-2017), who will forever be known for his breakout role of Kent “Flounder” Dorfman in the 1978 hit film National Lampoon’s Animal House.
Furst passed away from complications of diabetes on June 16 at the age of 62.
Furst was working as a pizza delivery boy while looking for work as an actor and he did score some small roles before being discovered by Matty Simmons, who gave Furst his breakout role. He joined the cast of the film’s short-lived spinoff series Delta House but would later gain fame as Dr. Elliot Axelrod on the hit 80’s television series St. Elsewhere. He would also appear in the hilarious films Up the Creek in 1984 and The Dream Team in 1989.
During much of the early 90’s, Furst appeared on television and after appearing in the 1993 martial arts B-movie Magic Kid, Furst made his directorial debut on the film’s sequel while reprising his role of the uncle of the titular character, played by teen martial artist T.J. Roberts. The sequel allowed Furst to bring in three of his St. Elsewhere co-stars to appear as friends who play poker. They were William Daniels, Howie Mandel, and David Morse.
Furst enjoyed the experience that he would continue to both act and direct in indie features and would also have a career as a voice actor in animated series. His voice credits include Fanboy on WB’s Freakazoid!, and Dash in The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea for Disney.
Furst is survived by wife Lorraine and sons Nathan and Griff, both who are involved in the industry. World Film Geek sends its condolences to the Furst family.
Here is a classic scene of “revenge” as Flounder attempts to shoot Niedermeyer’s horse in the hit film Animal House.
Our final tribute goes out to one-time child actor Henry “Hank” Deutschendorf (1988-2017), who was one of two twin brothers who played Sigourney Weaver‘s baby boy Oscar in the hit sequel Ghostbusters II in 1989.
Deutschendorf lost his battle with schizoaffective disorder on June 14 at the age of 29.
The nephew of legendary country music icon John Denver, Henry and his twin brother William were cast in their only role as baby Oscar in the hit sequel, who was to be a sacrifice for a ghostly villain named Vigo, who would have to face the heroes who aren’t afraid of ghosts.
After the film, the Deutschendorf twins lived normal lives and found their calling after training in martial arts. Henry, along with Will, trained in Hawaiian Kempo Jiu-Jitsu, Karazenpo Go Shinjutsu, Shaolin Kempo, and Cardio Kickboxing. Will furthered his training by training in Black Tiger Kung Fu.
The brothers opened up their own martial arts school, the West Coast Martial Arts Academy in Encinitas, California in 2007. In 2008, Henry was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Henry is survived by his parents and twin brother Will. World Film Geek sends its condolences to the Deutschendorf family. Will has made an official statement on his brother and hopes to find a cure for this disease. To see Will’s statement and information on how you can help, please visit Will’s page at the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation website.
Here is a video of Henry working on his Iron Palm training in 2012 at the 4S Ranch of the West Coast Martial Arts Academy, straight from his YouTube channel
Rest in Peace, John G. Avildsen, Stephen Furst, and Henry Deutschendorf.