'Empire Strikes Back' Director Irvin Kershner Passes Away at 87

November 29, 2010

Irvin Kershner

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.

Update: George Lucas just released his own heartfelt statement through (via SlashFilm):

"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.

Find more posts: Movie News, Obituaries, Opinions



seriously, Leslie Nielsen, one of the funniest fucking guys on the planet, and now one of my favorite directors, this is terrible!

LINKFX on Nov 29, 2010


As Lucas' film school professor and Director of the best film in the series, we have lost the true inspiration behind the best Star Wars has to offer. Thank you for your amazing work - rest in peace.

eCAL on Nov 29, 2010


Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. RIP

Quaked2023 on Nov 29, 2010


Wow Link, chill dude. The man was like 87 years old. Death is gonaa happen whether you want it to or not. But this really is some very sad news.

Miles on Nov 29, 2010


Another huge loss! May he rest in peace! My condolences to Mr. Kershner's family! 🙁

Spider on Nov 29, 2010


He died young my grandma died at 104 years old! R.I.P, thank you for giving us a Star Wars masterpiece film!!!

george on Nov 29, 2010


RIP, Kershner. That dude MADE the saga, real talk..

Big Boss on Nov 29, 2010


Rule of three

Darren on Nov 29, 2010


First Nielsen! Then Kershner! Who's next, Elliot Gould??

Telltale Twin on Nov 29, 2010


The best director of the Star Wars franchise has passed away...this truly is sad...ESB is the best sci-fi movie ever made...I wouldn't be surprised if the prequels shortened his life

Geoff on Nov 29, 2010


Lame. Thanks for molding my childhood mind Mr. K. I don't believe I'll watch another movie like ESB in my lifetime.

bozo on Nov 29, 2010


"Empire" is my favorite of the holy trilogy. He made the best one of them all.

reborninfire on Nov 29, 2010


This hits pretty hard for me. #10, I am eerily waiting for the next news update. And it's really quite nerve-racking.

Cracky on Nov 29, 2010


i just watched the directors commentary of empire last week. you can tell irvin is DIRECTLY responsible for the magnitude and power of the movie. if lucas helmed this film, or anyone else for that matter, i am convinced we would not have the masterpiece that is the empire strikes back. Rest in peace Irvin, your contribution to film lovers is timeless.

bummed on Nov 29, 2010


Very sad news to hear Empire was always my favorite of the trilogy. Condolences to his family

Jimmy Love on Nov 29, 2010


Just echoing what has already been said...Empire was most definitely the best of the Star Wars movies...RIP Irvin Kershner...if anyone on this planet were ever deserving, you are one with the Force now...

The Credenza Kid on Nov 29, 2010


"Empire" in my and most others opinion is the greatest of all the Star Wars movies. R.I.P.

JJ King on Nov 29, 2010


thank you for making Empire the best of the best RIP

DoomCanoe on Nov 29, 2010


I feel blessed to have actually watched and gotten into the original versions of all three of the original series. I'm actually probably young enough to where I would have only seen the Lucas-fucked versions and gotten into the prequels instead. Luckily, my parents were fans of good cinema and bought the older VHS's. And yes, Empire is without a doubt the best.

Name: Mark on Nov 29, 2010


Just watched empire a few times over thanksgiving thinking how its 30 Years old and still looks amazing! I was 8 years old when I saw it open in the theaters and can say it really affected my life. SW changed me as a 5 year old, but Empire made me feel like I had matured with all the characters and their hardships, that meant a lot to an 8 year old kid who now had the ability to create entire worlds and galaxies.... I only hope GLucas can remember just how well his franchise can do when steered by other talents. May the man rest in peace. Thanks for your work kirsh!!

lando on Nov 30, 2010


Agreed with 19... the best of the best. RIP sir.

dRailer on Nov 30, 2010


God Rest His Soul In Peace, Amen.

Fisherr on Dec 2, 2010


There is no emotion, there is peace. There is no ignorance, there is knowledge. There is no chaos, there is harmony. There is no death, there is the Force.

John Doe on Jan 3, 2011


You can listen to audio outtakes from the late Irvin Kershner's interview in the documentary "The Nature of Existence" only on Mr Media Radio:

Bob Andelman on Jan 16, 2011

New comments are no longer allowed on this post.



Subscribe to our feed or daily newsletter:

Follow Alex's main account on Twitter:

For only the latest posts - follow this:

Add our posts to your Feedlyclick here

Get all the news sent on Telegram Telegram