Irvin Kershner, director of The Empire Strikes Back, died today at the tender age of 87. He’s mostly known for his directorial work on the Star Wars sequel, which has gone down in history as arguably the best installment in the series. He was an unlikely choice to direct the film but somehow he convinced the powers that be to give him a shot

Kershner himself stated that it was George Lucas who told him “You know everything a Hollywood director is supposed to know, but you’re not Hollywood.” It was an unusual thing to say: Kershner, an experienced artist, writer, and photographer, had been working in Hollywood for years, putting out movies such as The Flim-Flam Man with George C. Scott, and The Eyes of Laura Mars with Faye Dunaway.

Kershner accepted and found himself at the center of a huge gamble. He accepted a few other assignments, such as Never Say Never Again and RoboCop 2, and he even had a small role as an actor in The Last Temptation of Christ, but ultimately chose to retire from directing in 1994 and return to his life as a teacher.

At his death, he was a faculty member at the University of Southern California’s Master of Professional Writing program.

ScreenCrave would like to express our condolences to Mr. Kershner’s family and friends.

R.I.P. Irvin Kershner