×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Star Wars’ Producer Gary Kurtz Dies at 78

Star Wars” producer Gary Kurtz died of cancer on Sunday, his family said in a statement. He was 78.

In addition to helping bring the Skywalker stories to the big screen, Kurtz produced “American Graffiti” and “The Dark Crystal.” His career was closely aligned with that of George Lucas, but the two parted ways after the troubled production of “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Kurtz had championed “Star Wars” through multiple drafts and helped Lucas navigate 20th Century Fox’s lack of enthusiasm for a movie they dismissed as a B-picture. After “Star Wars” stunned everyone by turning into a massive hit, Lucas and Kurtz sat about crafting a sequel. Lucas handed the reins over to director Irvin Kershner, but production went over schedule and Lucas was forced to dip into his own pocket to complete the movie. Kurtz stepped in to direct second-unit work on the film. When it came time to make “Return of the Jedi,” Kurtz was replaced by Howard Kazanjian as producer. Mark Hamill likened the split to “Mom and Dad getting a divorce.” It appeared to rankle Kurtz.

Mark Hamill was among those paying tribute to Kurtz,  writing, “I’ve lost a lifelong friend.”

Gary Kurtz George Lucas

In a 2010 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Kurtz said the movies became too motivated by merchandising.

“The toy business began to drive the [Lucasfilm] empire,” he said. “It’s a shame. They make three times as much on toys as they do on films. It’s natural to make decisions that protect the toy business, but that’s not the best thing for making quality films.”

Kurtz got his start as an assistant director on Monte Hellman’s “Ride in the Whirlwind,” a low-budget 1966 Western that starred a then-unknown Jack Nicholson. During the decade, he served as a production manager and assistant director on a number of genre pictures, including “Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet” and “Beach Ball.” He also left Hollywood from 1966 to 1969 to serve in the Marines during the Vietnam War.

“Gary was a beloved husband, father, grandfather, friend, colleague, and mentor, whose work and talent spanned filmmaking, photography, music, and cinema history,” his family’s statement reads. “He was a Marine, a world traveller, an outdoorsman, and a kind, compassionate human being. … Gary was a magnificent man, who will be hugely missed. His whole family thanks you for your loving thoughts.”

“Gary was a wonderful man whose deep love and knowledge of film, story and character led him to connect and collaborate with filmmakers on ideas, large and small, around the world,” said producer Julian Alcantara, a friend and business partner of Kurtz for more than 10 years.

RELATED CONTENT:

More Film

  • European Union Placeholder

    Europe, Hollywood Hail Landmark E.U. Territorial Licensing Agreement

    Industries bodies and major companies in Europe and Hollywood joined on Tuesday to welcome a high-level European Union agreement  that in large preserves producers’ ability to sell movies and TV shows on an exclusive territory-by-territory basis. But the battle is not over to protect this backbone of film-TV business in Europe, warn the same 18 [...]

  • Box Office: 'Aquaman,' 'Mary Poppins Returns'

    Box Office: 'Aquaman' Battles 'Mary Poppins Returns' in Crowded Holiday Weekend

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and the most competitive time at the multiplexes. This weekend sees two very different heroes vying for the box office crown with “Aquaman” and “Mary Poppins Returns” both eyeing sizable debuts. “Mary Poppins Returns” is getting a head start by opening on Wednesday, though estimates show “Aquaman” [...]

  • John Mulaney's Pitch for 'Spider-Ham' Film

    John Mulaney’s Pitch for ‘Spider-Ham’ Film: ‘‘Spotlight’ ... but Family Friendly'

    There is much to celebrate about “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”: groundbreaking inclusion, a ’90s hip-hop soundtrack, Kathryn Hahn’s neurotic villain. But the arguable breakout star of the film is Peter Porker, aka Spider-Ham, voiced by John Mulaney. The prolific comedy writer, stand-up, and rising animation star (see “Big Mouth”) charms as one of the more [...]

  • Penny Marshall Dead

    Hollywood Pays Tribute to 'Trailblazer,' 'Pioneer' Penny Marshall

    Stars across Hollywood are mourning Penny Marshall, who died Monday night at her Hollywood Hills home due to complications from diabetes, Variety has confirmed. The “Laverne & Shirley” star was 75. Marshall first rose to fame playing Laverne DeFazio in the hit ABC series “Laverne & Shirley” before going on to become the first woman to [...]

  • Warner Bros., Bron Strike $100 Million

    Warner Bros., Bron Strike $100 Million Co-Financing Deal

    Warner Bros. and Bron Creative have closed a $100 million co-financing deal for five movies, including Clint Eastwood’s “The Mule” and Rebel Wilson’s “Isn’t It Romantic.” The deal, announced on Tuesday, also covers the “Joker” origin film starring Joaquin Phoenix; crime drama “The Kitchen,” with Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish; action-comedy “Superintelligence,” toplined by McCarthy, Bobby [...]

  • VICE

    Adam McKay Explains the 'Vice' Musical Number He Left on the Cutting Room Floor

    Adam McKay’s “Vice” has clearly divided critics, with some calling it a bold and daring analysis of one of the most pivotal figures in American politics, and others mincing no words in labeling it, full stop, the worst film of the year. (Truly, in the year of a Dinesh D’Souza movie, people are grandstanding with [...]

  • Penny Marshall Obit Dead

    Penny Marshall, 'Laverne & Shirley' Star, Director, Dies at 75

    Penny Marshall, who starred alongside Cindy Williams in the hit ABC comedy “Laverne & Shirley” and then became a successful director, died on Monday night at her Hollywood Hills home due to complications from diabetes, Variety has confirmed. She was 75. Marshall was the first woman to direct a film that grossed more than $100 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content