Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Farewell Irvin Kershner
Lucas may have been the creator of Star Wars, but Irvin Kershner was the one who made it great with his 1980 Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
IRVIN KERSHNER Kersh, as he was fondly known, died at his home following a long illness. He was 87.
Kershner was, of course, best known for directing The Empire Strikes Back, arguably the greatest chapter in the Star Wars saga (and which celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this year). But Kershner also made contributions to other franchises, directing RoboCop 2 and Sean Connery's last appearance as James Bond in the 'unofficial' 007 flick, Never Say Never Again.
Having fought in World War II, Kershner began his career by teaching film at the University of Southern California, but quickly made the move behind the camera via a detour as a stills photographer and TV director, calling the shots on Stakeout On Dope Street in 1958.
A decent career followed, in which he directed the likes of Sean Connery in A Fine Madness, Richard Harris in The Return Of A Man Called Horse, and Faye Dunaway in 1978's Eyes Of Laura Mars (based on John Carpenter's screenplay).
It was this movie that persuaded George Lucas, looking for someone to take the reins on his Star Wars sequel, to approach Kershner to direct The Empire Strikes Back. The rest is movie history: Kershner's no-frills storytelling style, coupled with a strong script and an imaginative visual pallet, gave Empire a gravitas that marked it out as an instant classic.
Kershner only directed twice more on film, with Never Say Never Again and Robocop 2, but he also made a habit of appearing in films, showing up in Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation Of Christ and, of all places, Steven Seagal's On Deadly Ground.
His last contribution to film was a cameo as Statistics Professor in the 2005 film, Berkeley - but Kershner's unmistakeable contribution to film history had already been made. 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. Rest in peace, Kersh.