Irvin Kershner sends a message to a crowd at Star Wars Celebration V.
April 29, 1923|
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
November 27, 2010 (aged 87)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Southern California|
Irvin Kershner (born Isadore Kershner; April 29, 1923 – November 27, 2010) was an American actor and director of film and television. He gained notice early in his career as a filmmaker for directing quirky, independent films, later moving on to films such as The Empire Strikes Back, the James Bond adaptation Never Say Never Again, and RoboCop 2.
Irvin Kershner was born in Philadelphia in 1923. His 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 Temple University's 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.
During World War II, Kershner served three years with the U.S. Eighth Air Force as a flight engineer. He later 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 first 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. Kershner later discussed his motivations: "I was grabbed by the fairytale which Lucas invented and wanted to be part of keeping it alive." 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."
Kershner had projects that he was going to be involved with in the late 70's and early 80's. He signed on to direct an adaptation of I, Robot from a script by Harlan Ellison, which was never filmed. Later, he was initially hired by producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown to direct an adaptation of Eric Van Lustbader's novel The Ninja from scripts by W.D. Richter and Tom Cole, but the project was cancelled following months of pre-production.
After 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, where he also provided cinematography training. He and the Founding Director Martha Nell Smith remained close and he served as her advisor until the end of his life.
Kershner, who had been a heavy smoker most of his adult life, died on November 27, 2010 at his home in Los Angeles after three and a half years 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 film|
|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 film|
|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 film|
|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|
- Barson, Michael. "Biography – Irvin Kershner, American director". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2014-07-15.
- Myers, Joseph (December 9, 2010). "In Memoriam: Irvin Kershner joins the Force". South Philly Review. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
- McLellan, Dennis (November 30, 2010). "Irvin Kershner dies at 87; film director". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
- Weber, Bruce (November 29, 2010). "Irvin Kershner, Hollywood Director, Dies at 87". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
- Arnold, Alan (1980). Once Upon a Galaxy: A Journal of The Making of The Empire Strikes Back. Sphere Books. p. 238. ISBN 978-0-3452-9075-5.
- The Associated Press (November 29, 2010). "Famed Jewish Hollywood director, Irvin Kershner, dies at 87". Haaretz. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
- Nashawaty, Chris (November 29, 2010). "'Empire Strikes Back' director Irvin Kershner: An appreciation". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
- Ryan, Mike (October 18, 2010). "In Hindsight, 'Empire Strikes Back' Director Irvin Kershner Would've Helmed One of the Prequels". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
- Allan, Jani. Fasten your seatbelts! The force is with you again Sunday Times (South Africa). 1 June 1980
- Director's commentary on the Empire Strikes Back DVD.
- Weil, Ellen; Wolfe, Gary (2002). Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever. Ohio State University Press. p. 125. ISBN 978-0814250891.
- Harmetz, Aljean (April 19, 1983). "Zanuck/Brown Leaving Fox". The New York Times. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
- "In Memoriam: Irvin Kershner". USC School of Cinematic Arts. November 30, 2010. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
- "22nd Moscow International Film Festival (2000)". MIFF. Retrieved 2015-06-12.
- "'Mined to Death' Documentary Film - Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities". mith.umd.edu. Retrieved 2017-02-18.
- Dichiara, Tom (November 27, 2010). "Irvin Kershner, Director Of 'The Empire Strikes Back,' Dies At 87". MTV. Retrieved 2015-12-21.