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Posted at 9:59 AM ET, 11/29/2010

Irvin Kershner, 'Empire Strikes Back' director, dies

By Melissa Bell
Irvin Kershner
Irvin Kershner (Jean-Christophe Verhaegen /AFP/Getty Images)

Irvin Kershner, the man who took on the risky role of directing the first sequel to "Star Wars," died today, his goddaughter Adriana Santini told AFP. He was 87 years old.

Many of his sequels, including "The Empire Strikes Back," were questioned by critics as departing too much from the original movies. His versions were much darker and spunkier films that found public appreciation, if not critical appeal.

In a fascinating interview with Vanity Fair in October, he imparted the depressing news that he should have helmed one of the "Star Wars" prequels in hindsight. I wish he had. Jar Jar Binks would have never made it past Kershner's cutting-room floor.

Here are previews of two of his most well-known movies:

And just for spooky, Hollywood lore: it's always reported deaths come in threes. With Leslie Nielsen and Kershner, let's hope it's just a old wive's tale.

By Melissa Bell  | November 29, 2010; 9:59 AM ET
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"And just for spooky, Hollywood lore: it's always reported deaths come in threes"

What a ghoulish thing to write! Have you no shame, Ms. Bell?

Posted by: steelers_rule123 | November 29, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

A gifted, curious, creative man. His loss is deeply felt.

Posted by: Bridge3263 | November 29, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

The Empire Strikes Back is considered by many (including me) as the best of the prequels, if not the best of the entire series.

Posted by: jasphil | November 29, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Steelers_rule123, I'm sorry you took offense to that. I should have phrased it as less ominous.

Jasphil, I agree! Which makes it all the more sad he did not direct another "Star Wars" movie.

Posted by: Melissa Bell | November 29, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Irvin Kershner was my mentor, creative director and friend. I'm a magician - Benjamin Corey. He gave generously of his time to all he met and mentored many many people. We are all left with the gifts of his creative work. When we would watch movies he would say, "They couldn't have found a way to spend any more money than that!" He preferred movies focused on deep character development and varied emotional texture. Family members were living with him during his illness over the last few years and he was well loved by all. I will greatly miss him.

Posted by: BenjaminCoreyFeinblum | November 29, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

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