Empire Strikes Back Director Irvin Kershner Dead at 87

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LOS ANGELES, Calif. —  Irvin Kershner – who directed the Star Wars sequel ‘Empire Strikes Back,’ the James Bond film “Never say Never Again” and “Robocop 2 – has died at age 87.

Kershner died Saturday at his Los Angeles home after a long illness, said Adriana Santini, a family friend.

Born in Philadelphia in 1923, Kershner trained as a musician and in photography before starting making documentaries and then feature films.

In 1980, George Lucas hired Kershner to direct the second produced Star Wars film, which was the fifth in the Star Wars chronology.

Even though the movie received mixed reviews in the beginning it went on to become one of the most critically praised.

Kershner told Vanity Fair in October that he tried to give the sequel more depth than the original.

“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,” he said. “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 said he had only one sharp disagreement with Lucas. The script originally called for the heroine, Princess Leah, to tell Han Solo “I love you” and for him to reply “I love you, too.”

“I shot the line and it just didn’t seem right for the character of Han Solo,” Kershner said.

Instead, actor Harrison Ford improvised the reply: “I know.”

Kershner’s big break came in 1958 while working as a director and cameraman for a documentary series called “Confidential File” in Los Angeles. Kershner was hired by Roger Corman to shoot a low-budget feature called “Stakeout on Dope Street.”

He went on to direct a number of noted films during the 1960’s and 1970’s including “The Flim-Flam Man” with George C. Scott and “The Eyes of Laura Mars” with Faye Dunaway.

Kershner was the only American to direct a James Bond movie. He was also the only man to direct both a Star Wars and James Bond film.

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