Filmmaker Gary Kurtz passed away at the age of 78. He was best known for his collaborations with George Lucas, including American Graffiti and the original Star Wars movie.
Kurtz was born in 1940 in Los Angeles and got his start in the film industry in 1965, serving as an assistant director on the Western Ride in the Whirlwind. He worked on several projects over the next year, before serving in the United States Marines from 1966-1969. After leaving the military, Kurtz resumed his career in entertainment, forming a fruitful partnership with Lucas. Both American Graffiti and Star Wars were commercial and critical hits, earning Kurtz Best Picture nominations as producer. The two titles are also in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.
Kurtz died from cancer on September 23, 2018. Per Fantha Tracks, his family issued a statement. You can read it in the space below:
With deep love and respect, the family of Gary Kurtz is sad to share that he has passed away. He died from cancer on September 23rd 2018, in North London, England.
Gary was a beloved husband, father, grandfather, friend, colleague, and mentor, whose work and talent spanned filmmaking, photography, music, and cinema history. He was a Marine, a world traveller, an outdoorsman, and a kind, compassionate human being.
His life’s work was to share the wonder of audio-visual storytelling through the art of film. Well-known for his work as the producer of American Graffiti, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Dark Crystal, Gary was passionate about telling stories that shared the humanity of characters in entertaining ways for audiences around the world.
Gary was a magnificent man, who will be hugely missed. His whole family thanks you for your loving thoughts.
RIP Gary Kurtz. A great filmmaker and man has just passed. Without him there would have been no "force". You will be remembered in the incredible films you made that touched the lives of millions. #ESB #starwars #americangraffiti @starwars pic.twitter.com/0D9RyP3DJH— Peter Mayhew (@TheWookieeRoars) September 24, 2018
Lucas will forever be known as the creator of Star Wars, but Kurtz was just as integral to the franchise's early success, guiding A New Hope through development and producing The Empire Strikes Back. He had a strong relationship with the original trilogy's cast, and many were sad to see him leave the series before Return of the Jedi. Mark Hamill said it was like "Mom and Dad getting a divorce." Kurtz and Lucas disagreed on the direction of Star Wars following Empire, with Lucas believing fans only cared about the spectacle. Kurtz became dissatisfied with the emphasis on merchandising and story changes Lucas made to Jedi, and the two never collaborated again. Post-Lucasfilm, his most significant credits include Jim Henson & Frank Oz's 1982 film Dark Crystal, and 1985's Return to Oz. Kurtz remained active through the 21st century, working on various TV projects and smaller movies.
At the time of his death, Kurtz had two films (Offbeat and The Chimeran) in pre-production. His last released movie was the 2016 drama Gangster Kittens, which explored an anarchic teen navigating the streets of London. While his more recent works never reached the heights of his earlier output, Kurtz will always be remembered for his numerous and unparalleled contributions to the film industry. His dedication to crafting fascinating narratives that connected with audiences was definitely appreciated, and without him, Star Wars may not have become the juggernaut it remains to this day. He is a talent who will be sorely missed. Kurtz is survived by his wife Claire Gabriel, daughters Tiffany L. Kurtz and Melissa Kurtz, and son Dylan Anthony Kurtz.
Rest in Peace Gary Kurtz: July 27, 1940 - September 23, 2018
Source: Fantha Tracks