April 29, 1923|
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US
|Died||November 27, 2010
Los Angeles, California, US
|Alma mater||University of Southern California|
Irvin Kershner (April 29, 1923 – November 27, 2010) was an American film director and occasional actor, best known for directing quirky, independent films early in his career, and then Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and the James Bond film Never Say Never Again.
With Jewish roots, Irvin Kershner's artistic and cultural background was a mixture of music and art. The study of music (violin, viola, and composition) was the most important activity of his early years. He attended the Temple University – Tyler School of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Later, he went to New York and Provincetown to study with the famous painting teacher Hans Hofmann. He then moved to Los Angeles where he studied photography at the Art Center College of Design.
He began his film career at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, teaching photography and taking cinema courses under Slavko Vorkapić, a montage artist and then dean of the School. Kershner then accepted a job as still photographer on a State Department film project in Iran under the Point Four Program, which ultimately led to an assignment as a director and cinematographer of documentaries in Iran, Greece and Turkey with the United States Information Service.
When he returned to the States, he and Paul Coates (1921–1968) developed Confidential File, a documentary television series. Kershner worked as writer, director, cinematographer and editor. He later developed and directed the television series The Rebel (1959–61), as well as the pilots for Peyton Place, Cain's Hundred, Philip Marlowe, and others.
He then moved on to feature films, some of the best known of which are: Hoodlum Priest which starred Don Murray; The Luck of Ginger Coffey with Robert Shaw and Mare Ure; A Fine Madness (with Sean Connery, Joanne Woodward and Jean Seberg); The Flim-Flam Man starring George C. Scott; Up the Sandbox with Barbra Streisand; The Return of a Man Called Horse starring Richard Harris; the critically acclaimed TV movie Raid on Entebbe which was nominated for nine Emmys, including Best Direction; Eyes of Laura Mars starring Faye Dunaway and Tommy Lee Jones.
Kershner considered himself an internationalist. He has said "I've been a student of Christianity. I've been interested in the historical basis of the Muslim religion. I studied Buddhism. I don't think of myself as a Jew except by birth, as I don't follow the customs. I'm a Jew because other people consider me so. My pride is in being international." He has also said:
I'm afraid of patriotism. The world has gotten very small and cosmic awareness makes patriotism seem an adolescent notion, which is why immature minds are easily manipulated by it. I really believe that patriotism in its generally accepted sense means accepting social prejudices, and the fewer we have of them the freer we shall be.
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Kershner is best known as the director of The Empire Strikes Back (1980), the immediate sequel of the 1977 hit film Star Wars. Kershner was a surprising choice for such a movie; according to him, when he asked producer George Lucas:
"Of all the younger guys around, all the hot-shots, why me?"
Lucas replied, "Well, because you know everything a Hollywood director is supposed to know, but you're not Hollywood."
Kershner, who was an appealing directorial candidate to Lucas because of his focus on character development, was reluctant to direct the film. When asked by Lucas to work on the project over lunch, Kershner refused. Kershner's agent was told about the meeting and encouraged him to take the job. Of his cinematic style, Kershner has said, "I like to fill up the frame with the characters' faces. There's nothing more interesting than the landscape of the human face."
After Empire, Kershner directed Never Say Never Again (Sean Connery's return to the role of James Bond); the HBO film Traveling Man starring John Lithgow and Jonathan Silverman, for which Kershner was nominated for an ACE Award; and RoboCop 2. He also directed several episodes of the television series seaQuest DSV, and he made his debut as an actor in the Martin Scorsese film, The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), playing Zebedee, the father of the apostles James and John. He played a film director in Steven Seagal's On Deadly Ground. He was a faculty member at the Master of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California. In 2000 he was a member of the jury at the 22nd Moscow International Film Festival.
In fall 2002, spring 2003, fall 2004, and spring 2004, Kershner served as a Visiting Professor and Research Associate at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) at the University of Maryland, College Park. He and the Founding Director Martha Nell Smith remained close and he served as her advisor until the end of his life.
Kershner died on November 27, 2010 at his home in Los Angeles after a three and a half year battle with lung cancer. Despite being a director, Kershner had been working on photography before his death.
- Stakeout on Dope Street (1958)
- The Young Captives (1959)
- Hoodlum Priest (1961)
- Face in the Rain (1963)
- The Luck of Ginger Coffey (1964)
- A Fine Madness (1966)
- The Flim-Flam Man (1967)
- Loving (1970)
- Up the Sandbox (1972)
- S*P*Y*S (1974)
- The Return of a Man Called Horse (1976)
- Raid on Entebbe (TV) (1977)
- Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)
- Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
- Never Say Never Again (1983)
- The Last Temptation of Christ (actor) (1988)
- RoboCop 2 (1990)
- SeaQuest DSV (TV series) (1993)
- 'Empire Strikes Back' director Kershner dies in LA, AFP, November 29, 2010.
- New York Times
- Once Upon a Galaxy: A Journal of The Making of The Empire Strikes Back by Alan Arnold (1980, Sphere Books) p.238.
- Irvin Kershner, RIP, Harrisburg Daily Register (IL) - Monday, November 29, 2010
- Director's commentary on the Empire Strikes Back DVD.
- Kershner's publicity biography
- "22nd Moscow International Film Festival (2000)". MIFF. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
- "Irvin Kershner dies at 87; film director". Los Angeles Times. 2010-11-30. Retrieved 2010-11-30.
- "Irvin Kershner The Hollywood Legend Is Gone at 87". CNN.com. 2010-11-30. Retrieved 2010-11-30.
- "Photos Of Irvin Kershner Before His Death".
- "Irvin Kershner Dies At 87".
- Irvin Kershner at the Internet Movie Database
- Irvin Kershner at the TCM Movie Database
- Irvin Kershner at AllRovi