"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."
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.