Irvin Kershner, who directed the "Star Wars" film "The Empire Strikes Back", recently died at age 87.
Kershner passed away on Saturday at his Los Angeles home after battling lung cancer for more than three years, longtime friend and Hollywood publicist Dick Guttman told the Associated Press. He is survived by two sons, David and Dana.
In "The Empire Strikes Back", the fifth chapter in the space saga, hero Luke Skywalker learns that villain Darth Vader is his father.
"The world has lost a great director and one of the most genuine people I've had the pleasure of knowing," "Star Wars" creator and writer George Lucas said in a statement. "I didn't want 'Empire' to turn into just another sequel, another episode in a series of space adventures. I was trying to build something, and I knew Kersh was the guy to help me do it. He brought so much to the table. I am truly grateful to him."
Kershner had in recent years taught screenwriting at the University of Southern California and also directed films such the James Bond movie "Never Say Never Again" and "A Fine Madness" with Sean Connery, "Robocop 2", "Loving", "The Eyes of Laura Mars"and The 1976 television movie "Raid on Entebbe", which earned him an Emmy nomination.
Barbra Streisand, a friend of Kershner's who worked with him on the 1972 movie "Up the Sandbox", called the director "amazingly gifted and forever curious".