Irvin Kershner, director of The Empire Strikes Back, 1923-2010

This thirtieth anniversary celebration year for The Empire Strikes Back has now been marred by sadness. Irvin Kershner, director of The Empire Strikes Back, passed away in Los Angeles on November 28. He was 87.

After the phenomenal and unprecedented success of 1977’s Star Wars, directed by George Lucas, the Star Wars creator brought Kershner aboard to take the directorial reigns for the 1980 sequel. The Empire Strikes Back has come to be regarded by many, including this fan, as the best of the six Star Wars movies – and one of the greatest films of all time.

From StarWars.com, here are thoughts from Lucas:

“The world has lost a great director and one of the most genuine people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing [. . . .] 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.”

In between work and school assignments, I have been making my way through the recently released The Making Of The Empire Strikes Back by JW Rinzler. That journey will take on more importance now, but be bittersweet.

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