John G. Avildsen developed an early interest in filmmaking from watching his father’s home movies. Starting out in advertising, Avildsen made friends with aspiring director Jack O’Connell, whom he worked with as an assistant director on Greenwich Village Story. Avildsen went on to make short films and commercials, then found work as an assistant director on Hurry Sundown directed by Otto Preminger. He honed his editing skills on Mickey One for director Arthur Penn.
Avildsen first gained attention as a director on Joe, starring Peter Boyle. He later directed Jack Lemmon’s Oscar-winning performance in Save the Tiger before taking on a script by an unknown actor, Sylvester Stallone. With Rocky, Avildsen developed the style that would influence many of his later films.
After the success of Rocky, which won him an Oscar and a DGA Award for Best Director he worked with Marlon Brando and George C. Scott in The Formula, Morgan Freeman in Lean on Me and The Power of One, as well as Neighbors with John Belushi and the successful Karate Kid franchise. His documentary short Traveling Hopefully received an Oscar nomination in 1983.
John Avildsen was elected to the DGA’s National Board for three terms, serving as Assistant Treasurer from 1977-1978 and as First Vice President from 1978-1981. He also served on the DGA’s Eastern Directors Council from 1977-1990, on the Western Directors Council from 1992-1994, and was a member of the 1987 and 1996 DGA Negotiating Committees.