Star Wars Producer Gary Kurtz Dies

Gary Kurtz, producer of the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, has died at the age of 78. Kurtz passed away after losing his battle to cancer.

"Gary Kurtz was considered by many as a pioneer in the film industry and a master of the art of filmmaking", the statement reads, in part. They originally had a two-picture deal in place at Universal Pictures, who ended up passing on A New Hope because the script was not fully developed. Kurtz and Lucas clashed over massive budget overruns (which Lucas had to cover out of his own pocket), forcing Lucas to secure more funding from distributor 20th Century Fox. Kurtz assisted Lucas through various drafts of the screenplay and helped to navigate those at the studio during the famously hard production. That led to Kurtz working on the Star Wars screenplay and developing The Force which would go on to influence generations of fans.

'Gary Kurtz, Star Wars producer passed away on Sunday the 23rd of September at 4.47pm after living with Cancer for the a year ago, ' began the message. He helped to direct alongside Irvin Kershner. The result was The Dark Crystal, with Kurtz producing and shooting second unit. The film went on to become the highest-grossing movie of all-time, and set the pace for numerous studio blockbusters that followed.

Disillusioned with the way the stories were heading, Kurtz turned down an offer to work on Return Of The Jedi and, while living in the United Kingdom, began talking to Jim Henson about a dramatic film starring puppets. Kurtz had this to say about it in an interview from 2010. "It's natural to make decisions that protect the toy business, but that's not the best thing for making quality films". He worked as an assistant director in 1965 on Monte Hellman's Western Ride In The Whirlwind, which starred Jack Nicholson. He also served as production manager on Voyage To The Prehistoric Planet, and held various jobs on the likes of Beach Ball, Blood Bath and The Shooting.

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Of course, while George Lucas is the main initial architect of the Star Wars franchise, one can not understate the importance that Kurtz played not only on Star Wars, but in Lucas' career.

In 1982, he produced The Dark Crystal with Frank Oz and Jim Henson, 1985's Return To Oz, 1989's Slipstream, 1995's The Steal and 2007's 5-25-77.

Kurtz was a hands-on producer for 1977's Star Wars, shepherding George Lucas' pet project from Flash Gordon-knockoff to problematic production to unprecedented sci-fi phenomenon. You can check out social media tributes to the iconic producer below.

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