'Empire Strikes Back' Director Irvin Kershner Passes Away at 87
by Ethan Anderton
November 29, 2010
As if the death of legendary funnyman Leslie Nielsen wasn't enough of a punch to the gut to end the long Thanksgiving holiday, yet another influential talent has left us. Most casual Star Wars fans know George Lucas is responsible for the sci-fi legacy (both good and bad). However, more seasoned fans of the franchise know that it was Irvin Kershner who directed The Empire Strikes Back, a movie largely considered to not only be the best movie in the series, but one of the best sequels ever made. Sadly, the AFP news service reported this morning that Kershner passed away at his home in Los Angeles at 87 years old. More below.
His goddaughter Adriana Santini confirmed his passing after a long battle with some sort of illness. Though Kershner's directing resume isn't as massive as other more renowned filmmakers, he did have his hand in a couple of franchises. The late director was also behind the camera for the 1983 James Bond film Never Say Never Again with the now retired Sean Connery as Agent 007. In addition, Kershner also directed the 1990 sequel RoboCop 2, which actually turned out to be the last film he would direct. Other such works include directing The Flim-Flam Man starring George C. Scott and an episode of Steven Spielberg's series "Amazing Stories." Since The Empire Strikes Back is pretty much my favorite film of all-time, this is truly a downer.
"The world has lost a great director and one of the most genuine people I've had the pleasure of knowing," says Lucas. "Irvin Kershner was a true gentleman in every sense of the word. When I think of Kersh, I think of his warmth, his thoughtfulness and his talent. I knew him from USC -- I attended his lectures and he was actually on the festival panel that gave the prize to my THX short. I considered him a mentor.
"Following Star Wars, I knew one thing for sure: I didn't want to direct the second movie myself. I needed someone I could trust, someone I really admired and whose work had maturity and humor. That was Kersh all over. I didn't want Empire to turn into just another sequel, another episode in a series of space adventures. I was trying to build something, and I knew Kersh was the guy to help me do it. He brought so much to the table. I am truly grateful to him. He was a friend as well as a colleague. He will be missed."
Our thoughts go out to Mr. Kershner's friends and family. Rest in peace... and may the force be with you.