"I look at a scene and think, 'Gee, I wouldn't have done it that way.' A lot of people have told me that The Empire is a better film than Star Wars, so whatever my disagreements were, well, Kershner was right."
George Lucas in 1980[src]

Irvin Kershner, nicknamed "Kersh," (April 29, 1923November 27, 2010) was the director of the 1980 film Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back. A graduate of the University of Southern California, Kershner had directed several major film and television hits, but retired in 1994 after completing SeaQuest DSV.


Irvin Kershner and Carrie Fisher on the set of The Empire Strikes Back

A film instructor and mentor of George Lucas at USC, Kershner summarized his interaction with Lucas when asked to direct The Empire Strikes Back:

"Of all the younger guys around, all the hot shots, why me? I remember he said, 'Well, because you know everything a Hollywood director is supposed to know, but you're not Hollywood.' I liked that."

Irvin Kershner originally turned down George Lucas's request to direct The Empire Strikes Back because he did not believe he could possibly improve upon A New Hope. Kershner agreed after Lucas told him he would concentrate on visual effects at the Skywalker Ranch and would leave directorial control to him; Kershner said Lucas told him it would be "[his] picture." Kershner wanted to take The Empire Strikes Back in a more serious direction than the first film, although he did not want to stray too far from what Lucas described as the "Saturday matinee, fun kind of film" it had been. Kershner later described directing the film as "one of the great experiences of my life." Kershner also had his funnier moments. For example, at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, Kershner wanted Luke to feel pain in his cybernetic hand, or the audience would find Luke putting his arm around Leia a little bit creepy.[3]

Kershner did not return for Return of the Jedi, having spent almost three years on The Empire Strikes Back. However, he stated in retrospect he would have directed a film in the prequel trilogy had they been produced sooner. He was succeeded by Richard Marquand.[4]

Irvin Kershner passed away at the age of 87 on November 27, 2010 in Los Angeles, California, after a long battle with lung cancer.[5]


Year Title Contribution(s)
1980 Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back Director


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