While it's no secret that Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner passed away yesterday at the age of 87, it may surprise some to know just how close Star Wars creator George Lucas was to the late filmmaker. Before hiring Kershner to direct the sequel to A New Hope, Lucas knew him as a teacher at USC, one who apparently championed the then-budding student's work.
Apparently, Kershner was one of the early supporters of the original short film version of THX 1138, which Lucas then expanded into his first feature film after graduation, causing the young filmmaker to view the teacher as a mentor. Hit the jump to read Lucas' thoughtful words of remembrance for his departed friend and colleague.
Courtesy of StarWars.com:
“The world has lost a great director and one of the most genuine people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Irvin Kershner was a true gentleman in every sense of the word. When I think of Kersh, I think of his warmth, his thoughtfulness and his talent. I knew him from USC — I attended his lectures and he was actually on the festival panel that gave the prize to my [THX 1138] short. I considered him a mentor.
“Following Star Wars, I knew one thing for sure: I didn’t want to direct the second movie myself. I needed someone I could trust, someone I really admired and whose work had maturity and humor. That was Kersh all over. I didn’t want Empire to turn into just another sequel, another episode in a series of space adventures. I was trying to build something, and I knew Kersh was the guy to help me do it. He brought so much to the table. I am truly grateful to him.
“He was a friend as well as a colleague. He will be missed.”