Irvin Kershner Passes Away At 87

Published 3 years ago by , Updated February 24th, 2014 at 12:27 pm,

Irvin Kershner passes away at 87 Irvin Kershner Passes Away At 87

Irvin Kershner (who passed away today at age 87) likely raised many an eyebrow when he eschewed George Lucas’ demands that the sequel to his money-making behemoth Star Wars, a.k.a. The Empire Strikes Back, be lighter in tone and heavier on the F/X-driven action.

Kershner instead delivered a dark and thematically complex film that most fans (ourselves included) consider by and far to be not only the best entry in the Star Wars franchise, but one of the greatest sci-fi cinematic dramas ever created.

Born April 29th, 1923, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Kershner was a graduate of the University of Southern California and began his filmmaking career in the 1950s, working as a documentarian for the U.S. government in the Middle East. He was involved in a handful of television series during the 1960s, including the Civil War-era drama The Rebel and the gritty crime series Naked City. He also worked in the USC film department as a professor, whose students included the likes of a young George Lucas.

Lucas later approached Kershner to direct The Empire Strikes Back as he felt his old teacher possessed the necessary background to helm a highly-anticipated blockbuster production, but would approach the project from a different angle than a longtime veteran of the Hollywood system.

While Kershner and Lucas were ironically at odds during the shooting of Empire Strikes Back (Lucas wanted more spectacle and was less than enthralled with the sequel’s murky atmosphere), cast and crew members have generally described Kershner as their favorite director involved with the original Star Wars trilogy.

Kershner, left, and Lucas, middle, on the 'Empire Strikes Back' set.

After tackling Empire Strikes Back, Kershner went on to direct the James Bond pic Never Say Never Again and became involved in a significantly different sci-fi franchise when he helmed the sequel to Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop in 1990. He retired from directing three years later, after completing work on the television show SeaQuest 2032.

We here at Screen Rant offer our sincere condolences to Mr. Kershner’s friends and family, and wish them the best in this difficult time.

R.I.P. Irvin Kershner: April 29th, 1923 – November 29th, 2010.

TAGS: obituaries, star wars

27 Comments

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  1. This is just becoming a sad day…

  2. In the UK we have one word to describe a man like this “Lege” (short for legend).

    He will be missed, it’s a bad day for cinema!

  3. I loved his work on Empire Strikes Back. In an alternate universe, he would have helmed Return of the Jedi and given it the proper gravitas it needed. I wish we could have seen that film. RIP.

  4. They come in 3…

  5. EmpireOnline summed it up best when they wrote: “For Yoda, for Vader telling Luke, “I am your father”, for Cloud City, for Lando, for the battle of Hoth, for the asteroid field chase, for Boba Fett, for Lobot, for Wampas, for Tauntauns, for “I thought they smelt bad… on the outside!”, for “I love you”/”I know”, for Chewie screaming in pain as Han is frozen in carbonite, and for the Empire striking back, we’ll never forget the legendary Irvin Kershner.”

    http://www.empireonline.com/news/feed.asp?NID=29588

    • Not wanting to argue, he was a great director and will be missed, but all of the things on that list came from Lucas, with the exception of the “I love you/I know”.

      Just saying.

      • @ DrSamBeckett: I was just quoting the article. Take it up with EmpireOnline. :P

  6. They come in 3′s who is next :(. The Empire will never be the same

  7. R. I. P. Irvin Kershner the empire strikes back is my favorite of the original trilogy he will be missed truley a sad day today 

  8. RIP Mr Kershner.

  9. RIP Irvin

    You Directed the BEST Star Wars film of them all with The Empire Strikes Back!

  10. Thank you Mr.Kershner for making cinematic history.
    Rest now, and we will speak of your legend for generations to come.

  11. RIP :(

    its weird when a celebrity dies it happens to another celebrity as well i dont get it :(

  12. The Empire Strikes Back is the best movie ever made.

  13. I wish we could avoid s!*t like this posting…

    • Jessie,

      There are THOUSANDS of spam comment attempts every day that never make it through. :)

      Vic

      • @ Vic: That wasn’t meant towards you but towards the person who posted the comment. That’s the first piece of spam I’ve seen since I’ve been coming to ScreenRant so keep up the good work. :)

        • Jessie,

          No worries. I was just pointing out what goes on behind the scenes. :)

          Vic

  14. RIP Sir…you retired too early.

  15. I liked his sequel to Robocop despite what others thought of it.

  16. RIP Kershner will be dearly missed. May the Force be with you.

  17. A great artist knows when to leave some things in others hands. Recognizes the limits and lets other people help you develop your vision.

    It’s not all written in stone just cause you have your own hands over your piece that the work is going to develop as you envisioned either. The art builds itself in some senses. George Lucas should have allowed other directors- more talented then he as a director himself- to take the reigns on the next Star Wars trilogies. But no- he was corrupted by the dark side himself. His ego took over and he totally had his hand in every cookie jar imaginable. And he got everything he wanted. And the trilogy pretty much sucked. So,now we have a lesson to all the prospective directors and creators out there. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses folks! It’ll be a better day for all of us.

    • You see, its easy to critisise Lucas as a director, but A New Hope was good, and he directed many of the best bits of Return Of The Jedi, and Revenge of The Sith is very well directed also.

      • @ DrSamBeckett: I agree with you here. Jorge is not a terrible director as he is a terrible screenwriter. I’m amazed that “Star Wars: A New Hope” came out as well as it did. He’s a great story-teller but can’t write dialouge worth s!*t. For example: see any of the prequels.

  18. I agree with Dr.SamBeckett aswell. I rather enjoyed all 6 films though. As someone stated before, like how Anikin became Darth Vader people were excited about how Lucas will show how he came to be but were disappointed with the outcome among other thing in the prequels such as the use of cgi alot but still i thought of it seeing more of the galaxy sort of speak. Besides i wouldn’t want them to use same filming locations they used in the original trilogy & wonder if its the planet of Endor or where Cloud City is. In episode 2, Lucas used the same location for the Laws home on Tatooine redone as it was in Episode 4. I liked Empire Strikes Back, just not as much as the others. I thought it kinda moved at a slow paced during the first half of the film but got interesting once luke was learning from Yoda while the others were at Cloud City.

  19. Am i the only one who’s mentioned Irvin Kershner’s work on Robocop 2?

  20. 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: http://www.mrmedia.com/2011/01/exclusive-empire-strikes-back-director.html

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