Tuesday, November 30, 2010

R.I.P. Irvin Kirshner

[On why George Lucas asked him to direct Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)]: "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 Kirshner, the director of The Empire Strikes Back, passed away on Saturday at the age of 87. George Lucas tapped him to helm the next installment of Star Wars because Kirshner was his teacher at UCLA film school and he felt that he had a great talent for getting great performances from his actors.

Kirsher made his directorial debut with the 1958 film Stakeout on Dope Street and then followed up with work in television series like The Rebel, Ben Casey and Naked City. Other notable credits include the Barbara Streisand film Up The Sandbox, S*P*Y*S which starred Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland, and The Eyes of Laura Mars starring Faye Dunaway. After directing Empire in 1980, he worked with Sean Connery who returned to the James Bond role in 1983's Never Say Never Again and was also behind the camera for Robocop 2 in 1990.

If you've seen the very underrated teen comedy Angus (1995) you'll see Kirshner in a silent cameo as George C. Scott's chess partner--Kirshner directed Scott in 1967's The Flim Flam Man.

A fitting tribute to Kirsher is that many of the Star Wars actors cited him as the best director of the series because they felt he was a joy to work with.

"I think it went beyond 'Star Wars'. You had some humor, you got to know the characters a little better. I saw it as the second movement in an opera. That's why I wanted some of the things slower. And it ends in a way that you can't wait to see or to hear the vivace, the allegretto. I didn't have a climax at the end. I had an emotional climax." -- Irvin Kirshner on The Empire Strikes Back

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