April 29, 1923|
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||November 27, 2010
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
|Alma mater||University of Southern California|
Irvin Kershner (born Isadore 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 The Empire Strikes Back, the James Bond film Never Say Never Again, and RoboCop 2.
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, including: Hoodlum Priest (which starred Don Murray); The Luck of Ginger Coffey (with Robert Shaw and Mary 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); Loving (with George Segal and Eva Marie Saint); The Return of a Man Called Horse (starring Richard Harris); the critically acclaimed TV movie Raid on Entebbe (an intense true-life drama which was nominated for nine Emmys, including Best Direction); and the supernatural thriller Eyes of Laura Mars (starring Faye Dunaway and Tommy Lee Jones).
Kershner was the son of Ukrainian-Jewish immigrants. He considered himself an internationalist, saying "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."
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 Kershner himself, he once 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 The Empire Strikes Back, 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, this film earned Kershner an ACE Award nomination), and RoboCop 2. He also directed the pilot 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), in which he played 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. Kershner had been working on photography before his death. He is survived by two sons, David and Dana.
- Winner Lifetime Career Award – Saturn Awards (2010)
- Winner Director of Achievement – Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (2002)
- Winner Best Director, The Empire Strikes Back – Saturn Awards (1980)
- Winner Best Dramatic Presentation, The Empire Strikes Back – Hugo Awards (1980)
- Nominee Best Director, Special Program-Drama, Raid on Entebbe – Emmy Awards (1976)
- Winner OCIC Award, Hoodlum Priest – Cannes Film Festival (1961)
- Nominee Palme d'Or, Hoodlum Priest – Cannes Film Festival (1961)
|1955||Confidential File||Director||Television series
Episode "Horror Comic Books" (1955)
|1958||Stakeout on Dope Street||Director, Writer|
|1959||Now is Tomorrow||Director||Television movie|
|1959||The Young Captives||Director, Producer|
|1959-1961||The Rebel||Director||Television series
|1961||Cain's Hundred||Director||Television series
Episode "Degrees of Guilt" (1961)
|1961||Ben Casey||Director||Television series
Episode "My Good Friend Krikor" (1961)
|1962-1963||Naked City||Director||Television series
Episodes "Bringing Far Places Together" (1962)
"And by the Sweat of Thy Brow..." (1963)
|1963||Kraft Suspense Theatre||Director||Television series
Episode "The End of the World, Baby" (1963)
|1963||Face in the Rain||Director|
|1964||The Luck of Ginger Coffey||Director|
|1966||A Fine Madness||Director|
|1967||The Flim-Flam Man||Director|
|1972||Up the Sandbox||Director|
|1976||The Return of a Man Called Horse||Director|
|1977||Raid on Entebbe||Director||Television movie|
|1978||Eyes of Laura Mars||Director|
|1980||The Empire Strikes Back||Director|
|1983||Never Say Never Again||Director|
|1986||Amazing Stories||Director||Television series
Episode "Hell Toupee" (1986)
|1988||The Last Temptation of Christ||Actor||Zebedee|
|1989||Traveling Man||Director||Television movie|
|1993||SeaQuest DSV||Director||Television series
Pilot episode "To Be or Not to Be" (1993)
|1994||On Deadly Ground||Actor||Walters|
|2003||Manhood||Actor (as Irv Kershner)||Gentleman|
|2005||Berkeley||Actor (as Irv Kershner)||Statistics professor|
|2009||The Lost Tribe||Executive producer|
- Bruce Weber. "Irvin Kershner, Hollywood Director, Dies at 87". New York Times, November 27, 2010.
- Michael Barson. "Biography - Irvin Kershner, American director". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2014-07-15.
- Joseph Myers. "In Memoriam: Irvin Kershner joins the Force". South Philly Review, December 9, 2010.
- Once Upon a Galaxy: A Journal of The Making of The Empire Strikes Back by Alan Arnold (1980, Sphere Books). p.238.
- The Associated Press. "Famed Jewish Hollywood director, Irvin Kershner, dies at 87". Haaretz, November 29, 2010.
- Director's commentary on the Empire Strikes Back DVD.
- "In Memoriam: Irvin Kershner". USC School of Cinematic Arts, November 30, 2010.
- "22nd Moscow International Film Festival (2000)". MIFF. Retrieved 2015-06-12.
- Dennis McLellan. "Irvin Kershner dies at 87; film director". Los Angeles Times, November 30, 2010.
- Tom Dichiara. "Irvin Kershner, Director Of ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ Dies At 87". MTV, November 27, 2010.
- Irvin Kershner at the Internet Movie Database
- Irvin Kershner at the TCM Movie Database
- Irvin Kershner at AllMovie