Irvin Kershner, the man who saved "Star Wars" from becoming a schlocky joke, died at the age of 87.

Kershner was George Lucas's choice for the director's chair for the second film, "The Empire Strikes Back." And it was his work that elevated the series into the upper levels of great film-making artistry.

Ol' Irv took the job after Lucas, who directed the first film, told him he was making the offer "because you know everything a Hollywood director is supposed to know, but you're not Hollywood."

Kershner proved it by bringing great emotional weight, more believable dialogue, tightly-wound action scenes and inspiring performances from his leads to make "Empire" one of the best sequels of all time.

He also directed Sean Connery's final "comeback" James Bond film, "Never Say Never Again," (not so bad) and "Robocop II" (pretty damn bad). But "Empire Strikes Back"! Now, the Force was clearly with him on that one, and for always.