This year marks the 30th anniversary of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. To celebrate, Star Wars historian J.W. Rinzler has created another of his gorgeous coffee-table books, chock full of never-revealed secrets about the making of the film. We pored over his tome, and discovered 10 things you never knew about Jedi.
Just like Rinzler's 2010 volume about Empire Strikes Back, The Making of Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi is an indispensible volume that will add tons of insight to your appreciation of George Lucas' Original Trilogy. Rinzler has gone through masses of production documents at Lucasfilm and interviewed tons of people, and come up with a portrait of Lucas struggling to find a fitting ending to his ambitious, heroic saga.
In particular, you might have thought Jedi would have been easy sailing after the troubled productions of the first two films — now, at last, Lucas had proved that he could make a hit film twice. And Lucas had overcome the industry stigma against big-budget sequels, which was a major issue 30 years ago. But no — if anything, Return of the Jedi looks like it was just as chaotic a production as the first two movies, in part due to the fact that Lucas was attempting a lot of things that had never been done before, and working with a less experienced director, Richard Marquand.
(Also, Lucas really thought David Lynch was going to direct Jedi — Lynch was Lucas' first choice, and Lucas was shocked when Lynch turned it down.)
Rinzler has compiled excerpts from various treatments for Jedi — going back to early handwritten scribbles, in which Lucas muses that Luke might have a sister — and the book also includes piles and piles of behind-the-scenes photos and concept art. Including a few pieces of concept art for different versions of Princess Leia's slave outfit, along with some much more feral Ewoks.
(And a running theme in the book is that everybody except Lucas hated the Ewoks, those invincible teddy bears. They were a sticking point at every stage of production, and concept artist Ralph McQuarrie refused to work on designs for them once he realized what Lucas actually wanted. Crewmembers and castmembers alike were openly scornful of these critters, and especially of the final triumphant dance scene.)
Image: Ewoks seize the clapperboard on May 17, 1982, during second unit work near Crescent City.
The picture that emerges after reading Rinzler's Making Of book is of a somewhat troubled production, in which Lucas was being a control freak but was also sick of his own creation. The post-production process offers its own drama in the form of Black Friday, the day Lucas threw out hundreds of completed VFX shots and forced the Industrial Light and Magic crew to go back to the drawing board on key sequences.
And yet, you might also come away with a new appreciation of Return of the Jedi. You sense that this film was a labor of love for almost everybody involved. And that Lucas was wrestling with taking the dark subject matter of Luke and his monstrous father and turning it into something uplifting, joyful and life-affirming. Lucas wanted a happy, fairy-tale ending, and he moved heaven and Earth to get it.
Check out some behind-the-scenes pictures from the book below, plus:
Actually, at first George Lucas didn't think Han Solo would be in Return of the Jedi at all — actor Harrison Ford was only contracted for the first two movies, unlike the rest of the main cast. And then Lucas thought maybe they would negotiate a new deal, that would allow Han Solo to be defrosted at the very end of the movie and put in a brief appearance. Even once Ford was signed up to be in the film, though, early script drafts found ways to get him out of the way — like, in one version, Leia is leading a Rebel attack on a cannon, and Han Solo wants to stop her because it's suicide. So Luke uses the Force to manacle Solo to the Millennium Falcon controls, and keeps "the chained-up Solo" there for a good long while. (That counts as "bondage" if this does.) And while it's true that Harrison Ford pushed for Han Solo to die in the third movie, Lucas never even considered doing it.
Instead of removing Vader's helmet to show actor Sebastian Shaw, Marquand originally wanted to reveal the deformed visage of a famous British stage actor, like Laurence Olivier or John Gielgud. But Lucas worried that the reveal of a known actor would distract people, who "wouldn't take it seriously." So Marquand looked for an actor who is "just a person," with an unremarkable face. Also, Ian McDiarmid almost didn't get to play the Emperor — they were deciding between McDiarmid, who was a young man and thus could handle romping around in all that makeup for hours, and Alan Webb, who was authentically elderly. They chose Alan Webb, who became ill soon afterwards. So McDiarmid got the part, and was young enough to be able to play the role again in the prequels.
Image: George Lucas and Richard Marquand on the Emperor's throne room set at Elstree during principal photography.
David Prowse played the body of Darth Vader, while James Earl Jones provided the voice. (And Jones joked that if Prowse won an Oscar, he'd want to stand in the wings and overdub his acceptance speech.) Prowse had become notorious for leaking plot details during the production of Empire Strikes Back, and thus Lucas had started giving Prowse fake dialogue (which confused the other actors sometimes.) Prowse, for his part, felt slighted for his contributions to Darth Vader — and when he heard rumors they were going to unmask Darth Vader and reveal another actor's face, he couldn't believe it was true. "They wouldn't do such a dirty deed to me," Prowse is quoted as saying. "They wouldn't put another actor in the suit, and when my big moment arrived, unmask somebody else." He also couldn't believe they would kill off Vader.
The working title for Jedi was Blue Harvest, to try and keep fans and journalists from stumbling onto the movie's set. The tagline for Blue Harvest was "Horror Beyond Imagination." And during the period when the severe sandstorms made filming impossible for the Sarlacc pit sequence, they were stuck in their trailers — and came up with an actual movie that would fit their title and logline. "We devised a complete movie, which was in fact Blue Harvest," Marquand is quoted as saying. "It would start with Carrie Fisher in her slave girl costume lying asleep in her trailer. We said 'Why not put a ghost in it?' George was going to write a five-page screenplay, I'd shoot it in a couple of days, and it would be 'Horror Beyond Imagination.' The story would have dune buggies coming over the hills invading the trailers, with nothing around them but graves and werewolves. We were seriously going to do it." And Lucas told Hamill that Roger Corman used to shoot a whole movie in two days, so why not?
Image: Phil Tippett and Stewart Freeborn pose before their joint collaboration: a fantastic menagerie of wonderful monsters.
The crew had built a $50,000 animatronic "arm" for the monstrous underground Sarlacc, which comes up out of the hole and grabs a guard, pulling him under. Richard Marquand had okayed the use of this contraption, which had wires and a radio remote control. But then Lucas showed up on set and nixed the device, in favor of just wrapping some cloth around the guard's ankle and then pulling it off, while running the camera in reverse.
Yes, you read that right. His mother. A development that would have made the Star Wars prequels very, very different. This was just one of the bizarre fan rumors that the Star Wars Fan Club collected at the time and shared with the cast and crew, to their amusement. One fan rumor that Mark Hamill really liked: Han Solo and Darth Vader were somehow "fused," so that Luke couldn't kill Vader without also killing Han.
Image: Harrison Ford in-between setups chatting with George Lucas.
This was one ending that Lucas toyed with for a long time. In the end, Luke's mentors emerge from the "Netherworld" and join Luke in the land of the living, for the final celebration. And in several script drafts, when Luke Skywalker confronts Darth Vader and the Emperor, Obi-Wan and Yoda are there, coaching Luke and taunting the Emperor.
One draft even made it a plot point that Obi-Wan was at a critical moment where he needed to return to physical existence, or else he would be pulled into the Force and lose his identity — and maybe Obi-Wan's Force ghost was keeping the Emperor from exerting his full powers. Lucas wanted to explore the idea that Obi-Wan's ghost was doing something important, given the line in the first movie about Obi-Wan returning more powerful than Vader could imagine. Also, actor Alec Guinness was hesitant to return for a third movie, if he was just going to be standing on a greenscreen and giving more expository dialogue. In one script draft, Obi-Wan gives a long, miserable speech to Luke about how everything that has gone wrong is Obi-Wan's fault, and it's up to Luke to fix Obi-Wan's mess. (And in that speech, Obi-Wan reveals that Uncle Owen was Obi-Wan's brother.)
It's just like doing yoga, Lucas told Kasdan during a marathon story conference. Or karate. "If you want to take the time to do it, you can do it." It just takes practice and concentration. Also, Lucas clarified that a "Jedi Master" like Yoda is different from a Jedi Knight," because "he's a teacher, not a real Jedi." And Yoda is like a Guru, who "doesn't go out and fight anybody." And Yoda wouldn't be any good in a fight, against someone like Darth Vader. Kasdan responded: "I understand what you're saying, but I can't believe it; I am in shock."
Image: Mark Hamill is filmed during Luke's moment of choice: Will he commit patricide or become a true Jedi and show compassion for his father
Because that's one way to raise the stakes. In the original outline, one of the Death Stars is half-completed, and the Rebels blow it up with torpedos after destroying the shield generator. The second one also gets destroyed somehow, around the time Vader betrays the Emperor and jumps into a pool of lava with him. (This is in the Imperial City of Abbadon, which got dropped as a location for the big climax.)
Even though Lucas really wanted a bright, upbeat ending, and he fought against killing off any major characters — even Yoda, for a long time — during one story session, Lucas pitched a really, really dark ending. In a nutshell, the scene with Vader and the Emperor unspools the way it does in the final film. Vader sacrifices himself to take out the Emperor, and then Luke helps Vader to take off his famous helmet. And then — Luke puts on Vader's helmet himself. In the transcript of the story session with Lucas and Kasdan, Lucas says: "Luke takes his mask off. The mask is the very last thing — and then Luke puts it on and says, 'Now I am Vader.' Surprise! The ultimate twist. 'Now I will go and kill the [Rebel] fleet and I will rule the universe.'" Kasdan immediately responded, "That's what I think should happen" — but Lucas didn't actually want to go that dark because "this is for kids."
Image: Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) on location in California's Buttercup Valley aboard Jabba's barge, April 1982.
The Making of Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi by J.W. Rinzler is out on Oct. 1.