The producer of the original “Star Wars” movie and its first sequel, “The Empire Strikes Back,” has died. According to media reports, Gary Kurtz died Sunday of cancer. He was 78.
Variety notes that Kurtz, who also produced “American Graffiti,” was a close associate of George Lucas until the two men parted ways following a difficult time making “The Empire Strikes Back.”
“Kurtz had championed ‘Star Wars’ through multiple drafts and helped Lucas navigate 20th Century Fox’s lack of enthusiasm for a movie they dismissed as a B-picture,” Variety reports. “After ‘Star Wars’ stunned everyone by turning into a massive hit, Lucas and Kurtz sat about crafting a sequel. Lucas handed the reins over to director Irvin Kershner, but production went over schedule and Lucas was forced to dip into his own pocket to complete the movie. Kurtz stepped in to direct second-unit work on the film. When it came time to make ‘Return of the Jedi,’ Kurtz was replaced by Howard Kazanjian as producer. Mark Hamill likened the split to ‘Mom and Dad getting a divorce. It appeared to rankle Kurtz.”
Hamill was among those posting tributes to Kurtz on social media. You can see his tweet below …