Coming hot on the heels of The Goonies and two years prior to Lethal Weapon, Ladyhawke represented another major departure for Donner. A dark medieval fantasy, it centred on Rutger Hauer’s mysterious Captain Etienne Navarre and his female companion Lady Isabeau (Michelle Pfeiffer), a pair of star-crossed lovers on the run from a vengeful bishop who has placed a demonic curse on their heads. While Navarre transforms into a wolf by night, Isabeau exists as a Hawk by day. Teaming up with petty thief Philippe Gaston (Matthew Broderick) they embark on a quest to overthrow the evil bishop and break the spell.
Something of a passion project, Donner had attempted to get Ladyhawke off the ground several times before finally getting the green light from Warner Bros and 20th Century Fox in the mid ’80s. The film then suffered another setback when Kurt Russell, originally cast as Navarre, dropped out during rehearsals.
That ultimately proved a blessing in disguise with Hauer going on to deliver arguably his best performance since Blade Runner. Not everything about Ladyhawke works – Broderick’s character feels a little too close to Ferris Bueller while the runtime could be trimmed down – but it remains a beautifully realised fantasy epic, full of memorable action set pieces, stunning cinematography and a spellbinding turn from Pfeiffer.
A box office bomb upon release, Ladyhawke has stood the test of time too, garnering a cult following as an authentic and fresh take on the sword and sorcery formula.
Maverick is the film Will Smith must have hoped Wild Wild West would be; a funny, clever action comedy based on a classic TV show. Coming in an era when most westerns were deadly serious, Donner’s film also felt like a breath of fresh air and benefited hugely from a masterful William Goldman script that was both witty and unpredictable.
The latest in a series of films featuring Donner’s muse-of-sorts, Mel Gibson, this time out Mel plays Bret Maverick, a brilliant card player and equally impressive con artist trying to collect enough money to earn a seat at a high-stakes poker game. Along the way he is forced to contend with a fellow scammer in the form of Jodie Foster’s Annabelle Bransford as well as lawman Marshal Zane Cooper, played by James Garner, who starred in the original TV series.