Monday, November 29, 2010

Irvin Kershner, R.I.P.

May the Force be with you, Kersh.

From The New York Times --

Irvin Kershner, the veteran filmmaker who directed the pivotal 1980 “Star Wars” sequel “The Empire Strikes Back,” as well as big-budget features like “Never Say Never Again” and “Robocop II,” has died, Agence France-Presse reported. His goddaughter Adriana Santini told Agence France-Presse that he died in Los Angeles after a long illness. He was 87.

Mr. Kershner, who taught film and photography classes at the University of Southern California, had already accumulated a lengthy résumé of film and television credits, including the 1978 thriller “Eyes of Laura Mars,” when he was chosen by George Lucas, the “Star Wars” creator and franchise godfather, to direct “Empire Strikes Back,” the first sequel to be released theatrically (though the fifth to occur chronologically) in that blockbuster space-adventure franchise.

“Empire,” in which the villainous Darth Vader reveals he is Luke Skywalker’s father and the roguish Han Solo responds to Princess Leia’s declaration of love with a winking “I know,” was a risky undertaking, financed with Mr. Lucas’s own money and filmed under difficult circumstances in California, Britain and Norway. Though it was greeted with mixed reviews, it went on to gross more than $200 million in its initial release at the United States box office, setting the stage for four more “Star Wars” sequels over the next 25 years.

In an interview with Vanity Fair in October, Mr. Kershner was asked if he was satisfied that “Empire” was deemed a classic work of science fiction in the longer historical view.

“In this case,” Mr. Kershner said, “I wanted very much for the film to succeed because I knew that George was spending his own money on it. I think the critics felt that they were going to see an extension of ‘Star Wars.’ In other words, they wanted another ‘Star Wars.’ I decided that the potential was much greater than a rerun of ‘Star Wars.’ When I finally accepted the assignment, I knew that it was going to be a dark film, with more depth to the characters than in the first film. It took a few years for the critics to catch up with the film and to see it as a fairy tale rather than a comic book.”

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