Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner dies aged 87

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Irvin Kershner, director of the second Star Wars movie The Empire Strikes Back, died Saturday at his home in Los Angeles, California aged 87; this followed a three-and-a-half year battle with lung cancer. The announcement of his death was made Monday, by his god-daughter, Adriana Santini.

He knew everything a Hollywood director is supposed to know. [...] but was not Hollywood.

—George Lucas, on Irvin Kershner

His previous credits, working as a photographer and musician, included A fine madness and Eyes of Laura Mars, the latter of these being the inspiration for the creator of the Star Wars movies, George Lucas, to offer him the director's role for The Empire Strikes Back — something which he initially refused, only to be later persuaded because Lucas felt his attention to the development of characters was important. Lucas later admitted he hadn't wanted to direct the sequel himself. Speaking of the director, Lucas said: "He knew everything a Hollywood director is supposed to know. [...] but was not Hollywood."

He also gained recognition after being nominated for an Emmy, for the 1976 TV Movie Raid on Entebbe, an award which he didn't win, but which thrust him into the spotlight.

As a director, Kershner went on to be the driving force behind Sean Connery's return to the role of James Bond, directing Never Say Never Again in 1983. Moving further into the realms of Science Fiction, Kershner directed Robocop 2 in 1990.

Kershner was not limited to behind the scenes work; he acted in two films, Martin Scorcese's The Last Temptation of Christ, in which he played Zebedee; and, starred as a film director in Stephen Seagal's On Deadly Ground.