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Star Wars and American Graffiti producer Gary Kurtz has died at 78

Word has come in that celebrated U.S. filmmaker Gary Kurtz, who produced such iconic films as STAR WARS and AMERICAN GRAFFITI, has passed away at the age of 78. Reports state that Kurtz died yesterday in London, after a year-long battle with cancer.

Kurtz began his career as an assistant director on Montel Hellman’s western RIDE IN THE WHIRLWIND, starring Jack Nicholson. After contributing to films like VOYAGE TO THE PREHISTORIC PLANET and Dennis Hopper's 1966 sci-fi horror QUEEN OF BLOOD, Kurtz soon boarded the films CHANDLER and TWO-LANE BACKDROP as an associate producer. In 1973, he teamed with Star Wars creator George Lucas for the comedic drama AMERICAN GRAFFITI as the film's co-producer. Shortly thereafter, Kurtz and Lucas struck a deal with 20th Century Fox for the making of STAR WARS. As head of the second unit for the inaugural chapter of the space-faring saga, Kurtz went on to direct several pick ups, in addition to portions of the cockpit dog fight scenes, as well as state-of-the-art special effects. After the success of STAR WARS, Kurtz joined Lucas once again for the sequel, STAR WARS: EPISODE V - THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, as a producer and assistant director to Irvin Kershner.

From there, Kurtz went on to produce two of my favorite film's of all time, Frank Oz and Jim Henson's THE DARK CRYSTAL and director Walter Murch's 1985 dark fantasy RETURN TO OZ. Since that time, Kurtz had lent his producing skills to several feature films and television series such as: SLIPSTREAM, THE STEAL, FRIENDS AND HEROES, among others.

“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 said. “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.”

Our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Kurtz's family, friends and fans. May his talents and contributions to the film industry be enjoyed by many for years to come. Safe journey, sir.

 

 

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