‘Empire Strikes Back’ director Irvin Kershner dies

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He was a director and cameraman for a television documentary series called “Confidential File” in Los Angeles before getting his first movie break in 1958 when Roger Corman helped finance his first feature, “Stakeout on Dope Street,” which Kershner wrote and produced with colleague Andrew Fenady, said longtime friend and Hollywood publicist Dick Guttman.

Kershner went on to direct a number of noted features in the 1960s and 1970s, including “A Fine Madness” with Sean Connery, Joanne Woodward and Jean Seberg; “The Flim-Flam Man” with George C. Scott; “Loving” with George Segal and Eva Marie Saint; and “The Eyes of Laura Mars” with Faye Dunaway.

The 1976 television movie “Raid on Entebbe” earned him an Emmy nomination for direction.

Along with “Empire,” his big-budget work included the 1983 James Bond film “Never Say Never Again” with Connery and “Robocop 2” in 1990.

Kershner also was an occasional actor. He played the priest Zebedee in Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ.”

In recent years, Kershner taught screenwriting at the University of Southern California while continuing to produce, write and create still photographs, Guttman said.

Francis Ford Coppola said in a statement, “We all enjoyed knowing Kersh, learning from him and admired his creative spirit and indomitable will.”

Barbra Streisand, a friend who worked with Kershner on 1972’s “Up the Sandbox,” said, “He had the most incredible spirit, an exuberance for life. Always working, always thinking, always writing, amazingly gifted and forever curious.”

At the time of his death, Kershner was working on a documentary about his friend, writer Ray Bradbury, and a musical called “Djinn” about the friendship between a Jewish immigrant and an Arab sheik in Palestine before it became Israel.

Kershner is survived by two sons, David and Dana.

“My father never really retired. He had a powerful drive to create _ whether it be through film, photography or writing,” David Kershner said.

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AP Entertainment writer Alicia Quarles in New York and AP writer Angela Doland in Paris contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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