Sci Fi

Albert Pyun, Captain America, Nemesis and Cyborg Director, Dies at 69

Albert Pyun, a director synonymous with low-budget sci-fi/action masterpieces of the ’80s and ’90s like 1990’s Captain America, has died at the age of 69 after a prolonged illness.

The helmer passed away in Las Vegas on Saturday, a few years after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and dementia, as reported via Variety. His tragic decline was chronicled for fans by his wife, Cynthia Curnan, on social media. The updates culminated with a Facebook message confirming his death, which read, “I sat with him for his last breath that sounded like he was releasing the weight of the world.”

Related: Kevin Feige Rejected Captain America 3’s Original Script

Born in Hawaii on May 19, 1953, Pyun broke into the industry when iconic Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune brought him aboard as an intern during production of director Akira Kurosawa’s 1975 feature, Derzu Uzula. He made a mainstream splash in 1982 with his directorial debut, The Sword and the Sorcerer, which, made off a scant $4 million budget, would kick off a career of similarly small genre entries. His ability to turnaround films quickly on a small budget made him a mainstay for the famously schlocky studio Cannon Films. Perhaps his most notable Cannon release was action star Jean-Claude Van Damme‘s 1989 sci-fi dystopian film, Cyborg.

This would eventually be followed by the 1990 Captain America movie, which he directed working off a screenplay by Stephen Tolkin. The film, which starred Matt Salinger as Steve Rogers/Captain America, was intended as a timely comic book genre release in the wake of the success of director Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie and the Marvel Comics character’s 50th anniversary. However, the low budget nature of its production was quite apparent, and the film would become relegated to a straight-to-video release domestically (with some theatrical releases overseas), after which it became a kind of cult classic of sorts.

Related: Chris Evans Admits He Misses Playing Captain America

The Failure of the First Captain America Movie

However, Pyun always lamented the fate of his Captain America movie, which was famously subjected to studio meddling. In an interview with CBR conducted in 2011 on the cusp of star Chris Evans’ Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in director Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger, he looked back on his failed film.”I really liked Stephen Tolkin’s screenplay,” he said. “That was a big key, as I grew up a fan of the comic book. I thought the screenplay got to the essence of what I liked about Captain America as a child — a story about a regular guy in a sense, Steve Rogers.”

That being said, the film’s straight-to-video fate did not surprise him. “I knew what we were up against,” Pyun continued. “I was only disappointed that the released version tried to make the material into a ‘super hero’ movie, which ran counter to what the film was about. We almost put “Imagine” by John Lennon in the film. We actually screened my cut for the representatives of the Lennon estate; they agreed to let us use it, but the licensing was too expensive. I was already off making another film, so it never entered my consciousness. I was not aware of it and felt nothing about it, except I knew I had my own copy of the film. I also never had the need to be theatrical. I think my main regret is that it wasn’t my version of the film that was released.”

Besides the subsequent films in the Cyborg franchise, Pyun also became prolific with the 1992 film Nemesis, a sci-fi crime drama starring Olivier Gruner as a cyborg cop in LA. He would continue that series with four made-for-video sequels. His work would continue throughout the 2000s and 2010s, having transitioned to self-funded releases.

Pyun is survived by his wife, Cynthia Curnan. Yet, in a testament to his constitution, he was still working on a duo of films, leaving two franchise follow-ups, The Kickboxer: Algiers and Cyborg: Rise of the Flesh Eaters, in preproduction.

Source: Variety

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