George Lucas Remembers Kershner and an Old Nielsen Screen Test

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George Lucas, David Prowse as Darth Vader and Irvin Kershner
Photo: StarWars.com

It was a strange start to the week as I had two back-to-back obituary posts reporting the deaths of Leslie Nielsen and Irvin Kershner and while my personal experience with them is limited there are others that can shine a little more light on their respective careers with a little more first-hand knowledge than I can offer.

The first comes from George Lucas where the following quote comes from StarWars.com:

“The world has lost a great director and one of the most genuine people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing… 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.”

Additionally, Roger Ebert posted the AP obituary and included a few videos of Leslie Nielsen along the way, the final one pointing out the following screen test Nielsen did for 1959’s Ben-Hur for the role of Messala, a role that ultimately went to Stephen Boyd. Of course, it’s more of a screen test for Cesare Danova testing for the lead role, which is why you see the back of Nielsen’s head the majority of the time, but it’s interesting nonetheless.