Gary Kurtz, a longtime Hollywood producer who helped shepherd the first two films in the "Star Wars" universe, has died. He was 78.

Kurtz's family confirmed the producer's death in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, telling the trade that he passed away in North London, England on Sunday, after a battle with cancer. The entire statement said:

"Gary was a beloved husband, father, grandfather, friend, colleague, and mentor, whose work and talent spanned filmmaking, photography, music, and cinema history. He was a Marine, a world traveller, an outdoorsman, and a kind, compassionate human being. His life’s work was to share the wonder of audio visual storytelling through the art of film. Well-known for his work as the producer of American GraffitiStar WarsThe Empire Strikes Back, and The Dark Crystal, Gary was passionate about telling stories that shared the humanity of characters in entertaining ways for audiences around the world. Gary was a magnificent man, who will be hugely missed. His whole family thanks you for your loving thoughts."

Kurtz was an indelible part of moviemaking in the 1970s and 1980s, producing iconic films including "Star Wars," "The Empire Strikes Back," and "American Graffiti" in collaboration with George Lucas. He was nominated for two Oscars for Best Picture (for "Star Wars" and "American Graffiti," the latter of which he co-produced with Francis Ford Coppola), and also worked as a second unit director on several films, including "Empire."

In a statement, Lucasfilm hailed Kurtz as "a man of immense talent and intelligence, [who] will be missed greatly by Lucasfilm, and we’ll remember his many contributions to 'Star Wars' and film."

[via: The Hollywood Reporter,]