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Empire Strikes Back director Kershner dies at 87

A great disturbance in the Force

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Irvin Kershner, the man who directed what was arguably the best of the six Star Wars films — The Empire Strikes Back — died over the weekend at his home in Los Angeles. He was 87.

"I knew that it was going to be a dark film, with more depth to the characters than in the first film," Kershner told Vanity Fair about Empire just last month. "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."

Kershner also told Vanity Fair that he turned down the third film in the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi, because "After working for two years and nine months doing Empire, and having it take so much out of my life and having given me so much, I felt that it was a complete experience and it was time to move on."

But after a few years spent recovering from that experience, Kershner "would have said yes" to directing one of the prequels to the original trilogy.

Had he been asked, perhaps The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith would have been less execrable — although it would have taken a cinematic genius to have raised the character of Jar-Jar Binks from insufferable to merely tolerable.

Although he may be best remembered for his work with Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, and that blonde kid from Corvette Summer in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Kershner also directed Richard Harris in The Return of Man Called Horse, George C. Scott in The Flim-Flam Man, Barbra Streisand in Up the Sandbox, Faye Dunaway in Eyes of Laura Mars, and Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again.

Before directing and co-writing his first feature film — Shakeout on Dope Street — in 1958, Kershner studied music and art in his home town of Philadelphia, along with painting and photography in New York and Los Angeles. His acting credits included an appearance in Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ. ®

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