class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-58193″ title=”irvin_kershner” src=”” alt=”” width=”199″ height=”142″ />Irvin Kershner, the director behind Star Wars sequel and fan favourite, The Empire Strikes Back, has passed away aged 87.

Born in Philadelphia in 1923, Kershner’s background was a mixture of music and art before beginning a film career at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, teaching photography and taking cinema courses.

Briefly starting out in TV, Kershner then moved on to feature films.  Amongst his successes were sequel The Return of a Man Called Horse, critically acclaimed TV movie Raid on Entebbe and The Eyes of Laura Mars, but he was best known for helming the second film in the Star Wars saga.

Originally turning down George Lucas’s request to direct (he had been one of the then young director’s film teachers at USC) Kershner eventually agreed after Lucas told him he would leave directorial control to him. This proved to be a smart decision on Lucas’s part, as Kershner went on to craft a stunning piece of pop culture cinema which resonated deeply with fans, and is (arguably) a more emotionally accomplished piece of storytelling than the original.

The director never quite reached the same heady heights again, although he made the entertaining “unofficial” James Bond feature Never Say Never Again in 1983. His last big projects were RoboCop 2 and directing a number of episodes of the popular early 90’s television series SeaQuest DSV.

He is said to have died at home after a long illness.