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Hollywood's Great Loss - Both of Them
At the close of November, 2010, within hours of each other, Sci-Fi popular culture lost two of its great contributors; Leslie Nielsen and Irvin Kershner.
Nielson for the 1956 classic, Forbidden Planet and Kershner for directing The Empire Strikes Back. Both films are regarded as being in the Top Ten best Sci-Fi's films ever made, if not the Top Five.
Nielson played dashing Commander John J. Adams in the smart, sassy Forbidden Planet, a big-budget MGM extravaganza based loosely on Shakespeare's, The Tempest. It was the forerunner for Lost in Space and Star Trek and its influence hit Star Wars 20 years later. It still resonates today. It was the first film to use an all electronic score and gives the film its weird ambiance. No other film sounds like it. The special effects were top notch and its concepts cerebral, probably considered too smart for a remake.
He said, Forbidden Planet was ...'Supposedly a science fiction version of Shakespeare's The Tempest, it was all about the id, or something like that. Who knows? I just had to wear a tight uniform and make eyes at Anne Francis. I was pretty thin back then.'
Despite his flippancy, the film gave Nielson his career, even though he is most remembered for his 80's and 90's comedy's. Yet he had already left his imprint in Hollywood lore as a 29 year old in this landmark film.
Forbidden Planet Music Video (A 5 minute version - Spoiler Alert)
Irvin Kershner was regarded as a actor's director, precisely why Lucas hired him. When he asked Lucas why he didn't prefer a younger hot-shot director Lucas replied, '... because you know everything a Hollywood director is supposed to know, but you're not Hollywood.'
In a recent interview celebrating Empire's 30th anniversary, Kershner said, 'I got to do all of the things that I wanted and had the freedom to go in my own way.' Thank the Force for that.
'I told George I was going to concentrate on the characters.'
'I wanted to make Empire a little darker (than Star Wars) and more truthful...'
He certainly did that, and gave the series it's best entry.
Lucas has been doing his best to unravel that legacy ever since.
(To see my review on Empire, click here).
Kershner went on to direct Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again and the sequel to Robocop and spent six years trying to get his own project up, but he never really returned to the smaller character pieces leading up to Empire, such as Eyes of Laura Mars and Loving and The Flim-Flam Man.
Despite Empire's lasting success he said ..'Here we are, talking about Empire, and it's 30 years later!' When asked if he had a career favorite, he replied....'I am still not sure I can single Empire out above everything else.'
Both men lived until their 80's and well and truly left their mark. And you can't ask for much more than that.
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