He was the man who came up with the title, The Empire Strikes Back. Not George Lucas. Gary Kurtz. And today, The BBC is reporting that the producer on Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, lost his battle to Cancer and passed away on Sunday in North London, England.
According to a statement by The Kurtz/Joiner Archive, “Gary Kurtz, Star Wars producer passed away on Sunday the 23rd of September at 4.47pm after living with Cancer for the last year,” read the statement. “We have him to thank for these wonderful memories that he made for us all. Gary Kurtz helped to create the force and it is with us always. Gary Kurtz left behind Clare Gabriel, Tiffany Kurtz, Melissa Kurtz, and Dylan Kurtz. Our thoughts are with his family.”
Peter Mayhew – Chewbacca in Star Wars – remembered him as “a great filmmaker” who “touched the lives of millions.”
In its own tribute, special effects company Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) said he was “a key collaborator of George Lucas and a supremely talented storyteller.”
Our thoughts are with the friends and family of famed @starwars producer Gary Kurtz who was a key collaborator of George Lucas and a supremely talented storyteller. https://t.co/EcV8V96SRA pic.twitter.com/qwCYq5j2uo
— ILM Visual Effects (@ILMVFX) September 24, 2018
Born in Los Angeles in 1940, Kurtz started out as an assistant director on Ride in the Whirlwind, a 1965 Western starring a pre-stardom Jack Nicholson. After serving in the Marines in Vietnam, he began a collaboration with Lucas that saw him become an early champion of the Star Wars saga.
Kurtz worked with George Lucas on American Graffiti, the original Star Wars and its first sequel, The Empire Strikes Back.
His involvement extended to working as an uncredited assistant director on The Empire Strikes Back. His desire to work on other projects saw his partnership with Lucas fray and another producer take on Return of the Jedi, the next Star Wars film.
His other films included The Dark Crystal and Return to Oz.
Kurtz was 78.