Two days ago Mashable’s Chris Taylor (“How Star Wars Conquered The Universe“) posted an interview (audio + transcribed) with Stars Wars and Empire Strikes Back producer Gary Kurtz, whom I had the honor of interviewing (along with Film Threat‘s Chris Gore) back in the late ’90s. Here are some highlights:
(l. to r.) Irvin Kershner, Frank Oz, Jim Henson, unknown female puppeteer (?), Gary Kurtz during filming of The Empire Strikes Back.
“I think George [Lucas] had it in his mind that he could direct the film remotely by telling [Irvin] Kershner what to do, and Kersh was not that kind of director. George only came over [to London] a few times during the shooting. Kersh said, ‘Look, you hired me to make this movie, [and] I’m going to make it.” And he did. He was a bit slow sometimes, and we did have to use a second unit a couple of times. I directed the second unit after John Barry died suddenly in the first week. So that threw us.
“Kersh was very good with the actors [but] he was a bit slow. I tried to rein him in a bit and by taking over the second unit. I was able to get some of the stuff done, like Luke in the ice caves with the Wampa, for instance. I shot all that. Peter Suschitzky, who was the cameraman, was very, very helpful in terms of making sure that the lighting in the second unit matched the first unit and everybody worked really hard.
“I think Kersh did an outstanding job. The difference between Star Wars and Empire from a performance point of view is, I think, striking. It’s not only better written, but its performances are much less comic book-like, and darker and more realistic.”