The legendary producer who helped George Lucas launch the original Star Wars trilogy is now one with the Force.
Gary Kurtz had been fighting cancer for about a year, and passed away Sunday at the age of 78 in North London, England. A family statement provided by Tiffany Hillkurtz, his daughter, said, “Gary was a beloved husband, father, grandfather, friend, colleague, and mentor, whose work and talent spanned film-making, photography, music, and cinema history. He was a Marine, a world traveler, an outdoorsman, and a kind, compassionate human being.”
Kurtz, a graduate of the University of Southern California film school, worked in the industry for over 50 years in many different roles. He worked as an editor, production manager, assistant director, and producer, as well as many other positions. First working with Lucas on American Graffiti, he helped Lucas shape the first two Star Wars films, A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.
A student of world religions, Kurtz thought that it would be a good aspect to bring into Star Wars. As such, he received much credit for the creation of The Force in the film’s universe.
Actor Mark Hamill shared the following sentiments on Kurtz via Twitter: “I’ve lost a lifelong friend. The world has lost a kind, wise, multi-talented artist & filmmaker whose contributions to cinema cannot be overstated. It was an honor to have worked with him & I know I am better man just for having known him.”
Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew said, “RIP Gary Kurtz. A great filmmaker and man has just passed. Without him there would have been no “force”. You will be remembered in the incredible film you made that touched the lives of millions.”
Other notable projects that Kurtz was involved in include The Dark Crystal and Return to Oz. Kurtz worked until he passed away, most recently working as a producer on an upcoming film on British poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe.