Irvin Kershner, the director of Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back has passed away in his Los Angeles home at age 87. According to his goddaughter, Adriana Santini, he had been suffering with an illness for a long time and finally succumbed to it. The actual cause of death has not yet been revealed.

After graduating from the University of Southern California, Irvin Kershner worked on many films, many of which have reached cult status. His most popular and recognisable film however was The Empire Strikes Back which most fans consider to be the best film in the Star Wars saga.

The Star Wars universe would not have been the same without his directorial contribution and I'm sure his passing will be mourned by Star Wars fans all over the world. The following was said by George Lucas on

The world has lost a great director and one of the most genuine people I've had the pleasure of knowing," says Lucas. "Irvin Kershner was a true gentleman in every sense of the word. When I think of Kersh, I think of his warmth, his thoughtfulness and his talent. I knew him from USC -- I attended his lectures and he was actually on the festival panel that gave the prize to my THX short. I considered him a mentor.

Following Star Wars, I knew one thing for sure: I didn't want to direct the second movie myself. I needed someone I could trust, someone I really admired and whose work had maturity and humor. That was Kersh all over. I didn't want Empire to turn into just another sequel, another episode in a series of space adventures. I was trying to build something, and I knew Kersh was the guy to help me do it. He brought so much to the table. I am truly grateful to him.

He was a friend as well as a colleague. He will be missed.

Rest in peace, the Force will be with him, always...