Veteran U.S film producer Gary Kurtz, producer of movies including Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and America Graffiti, has died in London aged 78.

Kurtz passed away yesterday, Sunday September 23, after a year-long battle with cancer.

Starting as an assistant director on Montel Hellman’s western Ride in the Whirlwind, starring Jack Nicholson, he also worked on Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet and Dennis Hopper’s Queen of Blood. After military service, he was an associate picture on Chandler and Two-Lane Backdrop before meeting George Lucas in 1971. He co-produced American Graffiti, before making a deal with 20th Century Fox to produce Star Wars; he set up the second unit and directed many pick ups, including most of the cockpit dog fight scenes, as well as the special effects.

The UK-based Kurtz then worked on Empire Strikes Back, his last collaboration with Lucas. He helped to direct alongside Irvin Kershner.

In 1982, he produced The Dark Crystal with Frank Oz and Jim Henson, 1985’s Return To Oz, 1989’s Slipstream, 1995’s The Steal and 2007’s 5-25-77.

“Gary was a beloved husband, father, grandfather, friend, colleague, and mentor, whose work and talent spanned filmmaking, photography, music, and cinema history,” his family’s statement said. “He was a Marine, a world traveller, an outdoorsman, and a kind, compassionate human being. … Gary was a magnificent man, who will be hugely missed. His whole family thanks you for your loving thoughts.”

Tributes are pouring in from Star Wars icons and associates,