Gary Kurtz, Star Wars producer, dies

Gary KurtzGary Kurtz, producer of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back and George Lucas’ right-hand man during the making of both movies, dies at the age of 78 after a year-long battle with cancer. Kurtz was instrumental in the deal-making behind both Star Wars and its predecessor, Lucas’ American Graffiti, initially pitching both to Universal Studios. While Universal was eager to make American Graffiti, they passed on Star Wars, which was then pitched to 20th Century Fox. Kurtz was literally in the Death Star trenches helping Lucas complete the first film, directing many second-unit shots (including many of the X-Wing cockpit scenes from the movie’s climactic battle) and riding herd on the somewhat overburdened Industrial Light & Magic. Fundamental differences over the storytelling choices Lucas was making for Return Of The Jedi led Kurtz to distance himself from Lucasfilm, and he would go on to produce such films as The Dark Crystal, Return To Oz, and Slipstream.