Irvin Kirshner began as a student of stills photography under Ansel Adams, also studied music and worked as a documentary filmmaker for the US Information Service. He also spent time as a faculty member at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. He would go on to direct several feature films, most of them pretty sub-par including Never Say Never Again, Robocop 2 and The Eyes of Laura Mars.
But Mr. Kershner, who passed away yesterday at 87, is known for one thing: He directed The Empire Strikes Back, at the time the sequel to the most successful film of all-time. Cinema fans and Star Wars fans go hand-in-hand. What’s remarkable about Empire is that not only is it the best film of the six Star Wars episodes, it’s hundreds of miles better than any of them. Including the first one.
I understand it’s Mr. Lucas’ universe, they’re his characters and his mythology. But Kirshner made it better. The performances, the interaction between effects and human actors. Particularly Hans’ freezing scene and the fight scene between Darth Vader and Luke toward the end. The still images between moves are masterfully done, unlike many other scenes in the franchise. Empire is possibly the best sequel ever. Right up there with Godfather II, and The Two Towers.
Here’s a recent interview Mr. Kirshner did with Vanity Fair.