Director Irvin Kershner passed away over the weekend at the age of 87. His goddaughter, actress Adriana Santini, confirmed the news early Monday morning, but no further details were given at this time.
Kershner is best known for his work directing Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back, the second and most well received of the six movie franchise. He also helmed the James Bond adventure Never Say Never Again starring Sean Connery, and the often maligned sequel Robocop 2.
Irvin was a graduate of the University of Southern California film school, and he was one of the first directors to be mentored under Roger Corman with his 1958 directorial debut Stakeout on Dope Street. Social alienation and human weakness were two themes important to Kershner and his body of work. And that is what attracted George Lucas to hire the man for the all-too-important follow-up to the hugely successful blockbuster Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope.
Eyes of Laura Mars, a horror thriller which Irvin Kershner directed in 1978, also played a role in helping the director nab the greatest job of his lifetime. Kershner's main goal in bringing The Empire Strikes Back to life was to give it more depth than the original. In an October interview with Vanity Fair, the director stated, "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. 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."
In the same interview, Kershner revealed that he would have directed one of the three Star Wars prequels, but was never given that opportunity.
1990's Robocop 2 was Irvin Kershner's last feature film. He did go onto direct episodes of the Steven Spielberg produced television series SeaQuest DSV. In 1988, he stepped on the other side of the camera to play Zebedee in Martin Scorsese's The Passion of the Christ. Irvin also appeared as an actor in Steven Seagal's 1994 action drama On Deadly Ground, and more recently as a Statistics Professor in the 2005 indie comedy Berkeley.