Gary Kurtz (1940-2018)

Gary Kurtz

[[Editor’s note: Reposted by permission.]]

By Craig Miller: Devastated. Bereft.

Gary Kurtz has died.

For over 40 years, Gary Kurtz has been my friend and colleague. We have continued working on projects all this time. There’s a film project Gary was slated to produce that I brought him into and he’s been involved with my Star Wars book. But we were friends beyond work.

Gary was an amazing man. Very private. He never wanted to be the center of attention. Even when I was working for his production company, he didn’t want publicity about him, just the film projects. That’s why he’s not as famous as he should be, for all he’s accomplished, and most people didn’t know he’s been ill for some time.

Gary, of course, produced Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. He also produced American Graffiti and The Dark Crystal, among other films and TV projects.

He was the most knowledgeable producer I ever worked with. Always on top of whatever his films needed, able to answer any questions or solve any problems that came up.

He and George Lucas met at USC Film School but started working together, on American Graffiti when Francis Coppola got the two of them together.

Gary served in Vietnam as a filmmaker, taking a camera into combat. He was required to carry a gun but, as a Quaker, went on combat missions with no bullets in that gun. That’s a lot braver (and faithful) than I think most people would be.

We’ve been friends throughout the years, as well as colleagues. Gary’s been living in England since the late ’70s so we didn’t get to spend a lot of time together but we did whenever we could.

I can’t believe he’s gone. It really hasn’t sunk in. He was 78 years old — older than George by a few yeas, well older than me — but he was always tall and robust and, until recently healthy. He seemed like someone who would always be there. It doesn’t seem possible.

4 thoughts on “Gary Kurtz (1940-2018)

  1. So sad to hear of his passing. He was at the 1984 Worldcon, and saw the masquerade entries honoring The Dark Crystal (George Docherty, Best of Show, Re-Creation, Mystic), and my presentation, Best of Show, Re-Creation, Group (dark-crystal-tribute.com).

    Sadly, I didn’t have a chance to talk to him and tell him what an amazing job all the folks involved did on that film! I would have loved to have interviewed him.

    The creative work on that film still has a broad effect on the industry, even today in physical effects, puppetry, costuming, props, and pushing technological advancements. It took a host of people behind the scenes to make it happen.

    He co-produced The Dark Crystal (look up in the Producer’s Guild definitions of “produced by”–versus “executive producer” — to see the astounding range of things he must’ve been involved with on the film).

    He did his share of interviews for several films, including The Dark Crystal, and was always very thoughtful, and always totally dedicated to each production.

    He will be greatly missed, and fondly remembered through the body of work he left behind, not the least was Star Wars, and The Dark Crystal.

  2. It is unfortunate that Gary Kurtz and George Lucas had a falling out over Empire Strikes back. Gary never talked about what actually happened (his story that they disagrred about Return of the Jedi literally had nothing to do with it) and the only place which told the whole story is in the George Lucas biography Sky Walking by Dale Pollock. It is a true unexpurgated biography because after Lucas read the manuscript he asked Pollock to remove some things but their deal was that Pollack could write whatever he wanted so long as it was true so nothing was removed. Pollock added a chapter about the breakup of Lucas marriage for the paperback edition as that happened just as the hardcover was published. If you look at Gary’s credits, his work after Return To Oz was on very minor films. He was a producer on the yet to be released 5-25-77 (a rough cut of it was shown at the 2007 Star Wars convention in Los Angeles) and no one seems to know what’s happening with that.

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