Director Irvin Kershner, who helmed the rogue 1983
James Bond adventure "Never Say Never Again",
has died aged 87...
Irvin Kershner (1923-2010)
29th November 2010
Irvin Kershner was born on April 29th,
1923 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. He is best known
for directing "Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes
Back", "Never Say
Never Again" and "RoboCop
He studied music at a young age before
joining the Air Force as a flight engineer on B-24 bombers
during World War II. When he returned to civilian life,
he studied art and design at the Tyler School of Fine Arts
in his home town. He also studied art under Hans Hoffman,
an artist in New York City. Kershner moved to Los Angeles
at age 25 and later graduated from the University of Southern
California film school.
He began his career in 1950, producing documentaries for the
U.S. Information Service in the Middle East. He later turned
to television, directing and photographing a series of documentaries
called "Confidential File" between 1953 and 1955. His
feature film debut was “Stakeout on Dope Street” (1958) – a
gritty crime drama produced by Roger Corman. It led to various
jobs on television series and in other independent features.
Kershner's first collaboration with Sean
Connery came in 1966 on “A Fine Madness” (1966),
a little-seen wry comedy starring Connery while he was
at the height
of his popularity as James Bond. Connery plays a poet who
visits a string of unconventional psychiatrists seeking
a cure for his mental block.
a cult following and, along with its successor “The
Flim-Flam Man” (1967) starring George C Scott, cemented
Kershner’s genre as a director.
His directorial career spanned many genres, across comedies
like “Madness” and romantic dramas such as “Loving” (1970),
to horror flicks like “The Eyes of Laura Mars” (1978)
and historical adventures in the ilk of as “The Return
of a Man Called Horse” (1976).
Left: Rare publicity
shot of Sean Connery during the production of Kershner's "A
Fine Madness" in New York City in 1966.
When George Lucas saw “The Eyes of Laura Mars”, he
contacted Kershner about directing the follow-up to his classic “Star
Wars” (1977). Kershner felt “Star Wars” was
too big a hit for him to want to take on a sequel, but bowed
to the pressure fro his former student Lucas and took on “The
Empire Strikes Back.” The rest, as they say, is history – “Empire” became
the highest grossing film of 1980 and one of the top 50 money
earners of all time. It was on the set of “Empire” that
Irvin Kershner received the monica “Kersh”, which
was to accompany him through the remainder of his career.
Kershner re-united with Sean Connery for the
'rogue' 1983 James Bond film “Never
Say Never Again”. In the early 1980s,
Kevin McClory met producer Jack Schwartzman, and they began working
on a rival 007 movie based off the "Thunderball" rights
McClory had secured in 1963. Receiving financial backing from
Warner Bros., they won a court case granting McClory the right
his rival Bond film, as long as it was a basically a remake of "Thunderball".
Although "Never Say Never Again" stars Sean
Connery as James Bond, and although the story is based
the film has always been billed as an ‘unofficial’ Bond
film, for the simple reason that it was not originally produced
or released under the EON Productions and MGM/UA mantle, and
was intended as competition for the official series. Ultimately,
the 'official' series was the victor, with "Octopussy" beating "Never
Say Never Again" at the 1983 box office - by a margin of
$23 million. To date, Kershner remains the only American to helm
a Bond movie. Kershner recently provided a director's audio commentary
track to the "Never Say
Never Again" Blu-Ray release.
After helming “RoboCop 2” in 1990, Kershner returned
to television, directing the pilot episode of the NBC action-adventure
series “seaQuest DSV” – production of which
then ran from 1993 to 1996 and still airs today. In the late
'90s, he acted as an executive producer on several independent
films and lectured at various colleges and festivals, including
his beloved USC, where he served on the faculty for the Master
of Professional Writing program.
Kershner died at home in Los Angeles after a long illness, said
his goddaughter Adriana Santini who lives in France. He was 87
Say Never Again" Move Coverage