Irvin Kershner, who directed Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, has died at age 87.
No details surrounding his passing have been released, only that it was the result of a long illness.
Kershner, who taught George Lucas as the University of Southern California, was asked to helm the Star Wars sequel by Lucas after the experience directing Star Wars: A New Hope proved to be too stressful an encounter for Lucas. By this time, Kershner already was a seasoned director who Lucas admired greatly.
"Of all the younger guys around, all the hot shots, why me?" he apparently asked Lucas. "I remember he said, 'Well, because you know everything a Hollywood director is supposed to know, but you're not Hollywood.' I liked that."
During production, Kershner focused on providing more depth to the characters that Lucas created, and even went on to have a sharp disagreement with him over dialogue of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in the pivotal carbon-freezing scene.
In the original script, Solo was to reply to Princess Leias (Carrie Fisher) I love you, with I love you, too. However, not seeing this as something that a smuggler like Solo would say, Kershner insisted that it be changed to I know.
According to his son, David, Kershner -- lovingly known as "Kersh" to his friends -- never retired from the business and was unable to quell the desire to create.
"He had a powerful drive to create, whether it be through film, photography, or writing," David Kershner said. "At the time of his death, he was co-writing a Broadway musical entitled 'Djinn' and working on a documentary about his friend Ray Bradbury."
Speaking off his death, Bradbury said Kershner "was an amazing man, a good friend, and I loved him with all my heart."
Following "Empire Strikes Back," Kershner would direct episodes of "Amazing Stories" and "SeaQuest 2032" among other projects. His last director job was the "SeaQuest" episode "To Be or Not to Be" in 1993.
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