We are very sad to report the passing of visionary producer Gary Kurtz, who Star Wars fans will recognize most for his contributions and masterful eye on Star Wars: A New Hope and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
LucasFilm has released a statement:
Gary Kurtz, the legendary producer of Star Wars (1977) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980), died on Sunday, September 23. He was 78. A key figure in the history of Star Wars and Lucasfilm, Kurtz’s gifts for storytelling can be felt in all his work.
Kurtz first worked with George Lucas as a producer on the coming-of-age comedy American Graffiti (1973), which became a massive surprise hit. It would receive several Academy Award nominations, including one for Kurtz and co-producer Francis Ford Coppola for Best Picture.
Following the success of American Graffiti, Kurtz joined Lucas as a producer on his next film: Star Wars. With a budget of $11 million, Star Wars went on to become the highest grossing film ever at the time of its release, garnering 10 Academy Award nominations — including one for Kurtz for Best Picture — and winning six. He returned to produce the sequel to Star Wars — The Empire Strikes Back, a decidedly bigger and more challenging film than its predecessor. Today, both Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back are widely regarded as among the best motion pictures of all time.
After Star Wars, Kurtz produced The Dark Crystal (1982) and Return to Oz (1985), films that have become cult classics.
A man of immense talent and intelligence, Kurtz will be missed greatly by Lucasfilm, and we’ll remember his many contributions to Star Wars and film.
The Kurtz family also released a statement:
“Gary was a beloved husband, father, grandfather, friend, colleague, and mentor, whose work and talent spanned filmmaking, photography, music, and cinema history. He was a Marine, a world traveller, an outdoorsman, and a kind, compassionate human being. His life’s work was to share the wonder of audio visual storytelling through the art of film. Well-known for his work as the producer of American Graffiti, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Dark Crystal, Gary was passionate about telling stories that shared the humanity of characters in entertaining ways for audiences around the world. Gary was a magnificent man, who will be hugely missed. His whole family thanks you for your loving thoughts.”