'Empire Strikes Back' director Irvin Kershner dies

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Irvin Kershner — who directed the Star Wars sequel “The Empire Strikes Back,” the James Bond film “Never Say Never Again” and “Robocop 2” — has died at age 87.

Oklahoman Modified: November 29, 2010 at 11:28 am •  Published: November 29, 2010
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Irvin Kershner — who directed the Star Wars sequel “The Empire Strikes Back,” the James Bond film “Never Say Never Again” and “Robocop 2” — has died at age 87.

Kershner died Saturday in Los Angeles after a long illness, said Adriana Santini, a France-based actress who is a family friend. He is survived by two sons, she said. His agent, Derek Maki, also confirmed the death Monday in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Kershner already had made a number of well-received movies when he was hired by George Lucas to direct “Empire,” which was the second produced but fifth in the “Star Wars” chronology.

The 1980 production was a darker story than the original. In it, hero Luke Skywalker loses a hand and learns that villain Darth Vader is his father. The movie initially got mixed reviews but has gone on to become one of the most critically praised.

Kershner told Vanity Fair in October that he tried to give the sequel more depth than the original.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Kershner said he had only one sharp disagreement with Lucas. The script originally called for the heroine, Princess Leah, to tell space pilot Han Solo “I love you” and for him to reply “I love you, too.”

“I shot the line and it just didn't seem right for the character of Han Solo,” Kershner said.

Instead, actor Harrison Ford improvised the reply: “I know.”

Lucas wanted the original line but after test previews agreed to leave in Ford's reply, which has gone on to be one of the best-known lines in the series.

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