40 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Return of the Jedi, the sixth chapter in the Star Wars saga. Also tomorrow J.W. Rinzler’s book “The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” will be officially released. Here are 30 things that you might not know about the movie…
1. Most Star Wars fans know that the movie was filmed under the title Blue Harvest: Horror Beyond Imagination to avoid publicity, but it’s less-known that the bogus title was a play on Dashiell Hammet’s 1929 novel Red Harvest, which was said to be an influence for Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, which was cited as an influence for Star Wars.
2. Despite the credits, Richard Marquand may not have directed all of the movie; George Lucas directed some footage, and Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner once hinted that Marquand’s assistant directed footage credited to Marquand, due to Marquand’s poor relationship with the actors. Also Marquand appeared in the movie as an AT-ST pilot.
3. Speaking of connections to classic movies, Emperor Palpatine, making his first appearance in the flesh – he was just bits and bytes in that hologram in Empire, and was portrayed by a different actor – was at first named after a character in Taxi Driver, but his name was changed to avoid potential legal issues.
4. And speaking of Marquand, he wasn’t the first choice for Jedi. Or the second, or even third. Stephen Spielberg, David Cronenberg and David Lynch were ahead of him in line. Just imagine, for a second, Cronenberg or, better, Lynch making a movie with Ewoks.
5. The Ewoks occasionally speak Tagalog, although most of their dialogue is loosely inspired by Kalmuck, a language spoken in Mongolia. One of the Ewok songs once was believed to be in Swedish – with the lyrics translating, wonderfully, as “It smells of cereal in here” – but that, sadly, was based upon people mishearing the gibberish the oversized rodents were singing.
6. The word “Ewok” is never actually said in Return of The Jedi, and neither were the names of individual Ewoks, although both appear in the end credits.
7. “Ewok” is derived from the Native American tribe the Miwok, indigenous to the Northern California redwood forests in which the Endor scenes were shot.
8. “Endor” comes from the Bible and is a village visited by King Saul before his final battle with the Philistines. Oddly enough, it also makes an appearance in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings, as the Elvish name for Middle-Earth.
9. Ewoks were a late addition to the Star Wars mythology. Their part in the story was to be played by the Wookiees, but by the time Lucas and partners sat down to write Return of The Jedi, they realized that, because Chewbacca could fly the Millennium Falcon, repair the ship and operate pretty much any weapon or machine in the known universe, they’d made the Wookiees too technologically advanced for the plot.
10. In what is either amazing planning or, more likely, complete coincidence, the one word C3PO says to the Ewoks is “Naboo,” which was later revealed in The Phantom Menace to be the home world of Luke and Leia’s mother – and Anakin Skywalker’s wife – Queen Amidala.
11. The lyrics to the song the Ewoks perform at the end of the movie – the words everyone heard as “yub nub” – were written by none other than Joseph Williams, son of Star Wars composer John and lead singer with Toto.
12. When scenes of post-victory celebrations around the galaxy were added to the 1997 Special Edition re-release, it was less a case of George Lucas tampering and more a case of fixing something that was missing from the original version of the movie. Lucas and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan had wanted to show Coruscant celebrating the end of the Empire originally but, unable to come up with a name for the city, dropped the idea entirely. It was only after Timothy Zahn came up with the name in his Heir to The Empire novel that the Imperial Capital had a name.
13. Both lightsabers used in the movie were re-purposed props from earlier movies. Darth Vader’s lightsaber was a Luke Skywalker saber from The Empire Strikes Back because all of Vader’s had mysteriously disappeared between movies. Luke’s new saber was originally one of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s from the original Star Wars movie.
14. Yoda was to sit this one out, but he was added after consultation with child psychologists made George Lucas decide he needed an independent character to confirm Darth Vader’s claim that he is Luke Skywalker’s father. Now you know why Yoda doesn’t do much for the rest of the movie.
15. In the radio adaptation of the movie, broadcast on NPR in 1996, Yoda was played by John Lithgow.
16. The reasoning behind the switch from the title Revenge of The Jedi to Return of The Jedi is murky, with various motivations given by various people at various times. One story has it that the switch returned the movie to its original title after Lucas temporarily changed it when Kasdan complained “Return” was “too weak.” Another has it that the change was made to differentiate the movie from the second Star Trek movie, which filmed under the title The Vengeance of Khan (Vengeance later became Wrath because of Revenge of The Jedi, according to those involved with the Trek production). The third story, which is my favorite, says Revenge was never the movie’s title at all, but Lucas announced that it was purely to mess with those making counterfeit merchandise.
17. The only cast member to shoot new material for the 1997 re-release was Femi Taylor. She played Oola, the slave girl fed to the Rancor in Jabba’s palace. According to rumors, she was recommended to Lucasfilm and ILM for reshoots because she was in better shape than she had been 15 years earlier; her scenes in the Special Edition are a mix of new and original footage.
18. Carrie Fisher’s infamous “slave girl” outfit was, reportedly, a stylistic response to her alleged complaints that the outfits she wore in the first two Star Wars movies made disguised the fact the she was a woman.
19. Adding to the Star Wars movies’ accidental misogyny, the few women flying spacecraft for the Rebellion were edited out of Return for unknown reasons. Surely women are no less capable of bulls-eying womp rats in a T-16…
20. However, Return of The Jedi does hold the dubious honor of being the first Star Wars movie to feature more than one woman who was more than a background extra. Take a bow, Mon Motha. You broke new ground in a way that is genuinely embarrassing to admit. (Seriously, Princess Leia is the only named female character in the first two Star Wars movies.)
21. The voice of Boushh, Princess Leia’s bounty hunter disguise in Jabba’s Palace, is provided by Pat Welsh. Welsh’s only other voiceover work is a biggie: She was the voice of E.T. in 1982?s E.T. The Extra Terrestrial.
22. The shots of Darth Vader’s funeral pyre were shot last minute, long after the end of initial filming, and close to Lucas’ home Skywalker Ranch.
23. David Prowse, the unusually tall actor who played Darth Vader throughout the series, didn’t film any of the lightsaber battle sequences for Return of The Jedi. Instead, he was replaced by stuntman Bob Anderson. Anderson, considerably shorter than Prowse, wore platform boots.
24. “It’s a trap,” which is arguably the most famous line in the movie, was, incredibly, not in the screenplay. The line was scripted as “Its a trick!” and was later changed post-filming after a test screening because, let’s face it, “it’s a trick” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
25. During the writing of the film, Mark Hamill speculated that the film would include Luke Skywalker’s turn to the Dark Side and eventual redemption, but it’s unclear whether this was wishful thinking on his part or a plot point that was genuinely considered.
26. An early version of the movie was to end with Luke walking off alone, leaving his friends behind in true gunfighter/Samurai fashion. That idea was dropped in favor of a happier ending, reportedly because Lucas feared a downbeat ending would throw a wrench in the printing press from which truckloads of merchandising money flowed.
27. Harrison Ford wanted Han Solo to die in the movie, sacrificing himself to save his friends. George Lucas vetoed that idea even though co-writer Lawrence Kasdan supported it. Kasdan suggested that Solo not survive being thawed, in part to make the audience believe no one was safe in the final film.
28. Another idea abandoned early on was having Obi-Wan Kenobi return from the dead. It did, however, make it into an early draft of the script.
29. One more abandoned idea: There were rumors that the final scenes were to mirror the ceremony of Star Wars’ finale, but instead of Luke, Han and Chewie getting medals, we’d witness the marriage of Han and Leia. Although this never happened, their marriage became part of Star Wars canon and serves as a basis for developments in the comic book and novel spin-offs.
30. The arms holding the lightsaber in the poster for Return of The Jedi aren’t Mark Hamill’s, as most assume. Those are Lucas’s guns holding the weapon.
10 More interesting things about Return of the Jedi.
31. Director Richard Marquand and writer Lawrence Kasdan designed most of the plan to free Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt.
Thanks to a transcript of a story conference that included George Lucas, Richard Marquand, Lawrence Kasdan, and producer Howard Kazanjian, it becomes clear that most of the mechanics for how Luke, Leia, Lando, Chewbacca, Han, and the droids would make their escape from the clutches of Jabba the Hutt came not from Lucas but from his producer and his writer.
MARQUAND: Can I suggest that Lando is actually in Jabba’s in disguise, that he has infiltrated?
KASDAN: The real problem is to figure out a plan; if you figure out a plan you can stick those people in anywhere you want.
MARQUAND: What if the next arrival is Chewie in chains, with a bounty hunter, which is in fact Leia dressed up. Luke’s not there yet.
LUCAS: I could go with that.
KASDAN: Then it’s a great Shakespearean court scene: girl dressed up as a boy. To work back from the skiff, I was wondering if Artoo, when Luke says these droids are my gift to you, instead of putting Artoo to work as a janitor, which is not doing that much good for us, what if Bib says, “We need a translator and Artoo is perfect for our barge where we lost our Artoo unit,” which is part of Luke’s plan.
32. There was breastfeeding in production meetings.
Costume designer Aggie Rodgers had given birth to a boy shortly before she started working on Return of the Jedi. “She used to bring her baby, James, to the production meetings and breast-feed him,” Jedi co-producer Jim Bloom recalled. “It used to drive Howard crazy, to have this baby boy sucking this woman’s breast in the middle of a production meeting. He used to complain about it, but she would say, ‘Well, what am I supposed to do? My son is hungry.’”
33. Mark Hamill wanted a girlfriend for Luke.
Rinzler writes that “Hamill had given Lucas a coffee-table science-fiction book and in the inscription had asked him to choose Luke’s girlfriend from the tome. He’d figured if Luke wasn’t going to get Leia, his character should have a romance with somebody else.”
34. Fan speculation was just as intense (and occasionally absurd) back then as it is now.
During preproduction on Jedi, “a nonstop deluge of letters” flowed into the offices of the official Star Wars Fan Club, which ranked the rumors that fans had proposed. The most popular of those were: “Darth Vader kills Luke; Luke turns to the dark side; Luke kills Vader; and Han is rescued, then killed.”
“Fans also thought that the Emperor might kill Luke and that Boba Fett was either a beautiful woman, Luke’s father, or, perhaps, Luke’s mother.”
35. Thank Richard Marquand for everybody’s favorite Rebel military leader.
Admiral Ackbar concept art.
Admiral Ackbar started as an anonymous alien in a concept sketch by Nilo Rodis-Jamero.
During a production meeting where Lucas, Marquand, and others divided up their coterie of aliens between foreground and background creatures, Lucas offered Marquand the chance to create a legend:
“George suddenly said to me, ‘Who’s going to play Admiral Ackbar? I just decided he should be a creature, so you can pick out Admiral Ackbar.’ I said, ‘George, I think this should be your decision. He’s one of your new characters here.’ And he said, ‘No, you choose.’”
Marquand proceeded to select “the most delicious, wonderful creature out of the whole lot, this great big wonderful Calamari man with a red face and eyes on the side.” It was a painting by concept artist Nilo Rodis-Jamero.
According to Marquand, “One or two people around the table, who shall be nameless, said they thought it was a terrible idea: ‘People are just going to laugh when they see this guy.’”
36. Salacious Crumb was basically everyone’s favorite part of the movie.
Sometimes magical things can happen in a model shop. “One day I came in and here was Salacious and I fell in love with Salacious,” George Lucas said. Anthony Daniels echoed that sentiment when he said, “Salacious Crumb is my favorite character. This little glove puppet was keeping me amused during the endless waits between takes.” Jedi chief articulation engineer Stuart Ziff succinctly summarized the cast and crew’s feelings about Crumb when he telexed a message from the London set to Industrial Light & Magic back in the United States: “Salacious stealing show.”
Salacious Crumb got his name from a combination of sources. Jedi puppeteer Phil Tippett and his crew went out to lunch one day and downed “a couple pitchers of beer.” As he was bending down to tie his shoes, he told the group, “Wait a minute guys while I tie my soolacious,” tipsily mangling the word “shoelaces.” After initially rejecting the name for the creature, Lucas changed his mind, but not before making a final modification. He changed it to Salacious Crumb, “in homage to the underground adult comic book artist Robert Crumb, known for drawing well-proportioned women.”
37. Gandhi auditioned for Palpatine and Snape auditioned for Jerjerrod.
Ben Kingsley, who played the title role in the 1982 film Gandhi, read for the role of Emperor Palpatine and “was considered ‘very English.’”
Alan Rickman, who was admittedly still 20 years away from playing Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter film series, auditioned to play Moff Jerjerrod supervising construction of the second Death Star with a “big, slow, low voice.”
38. Mark Hamill was the original Wars partisan in the battle of the Star franchises.
It’s no secret that Industrial Light & Magic did the visual effects work on many of the Star Trek movies. Indeed, in its early years, ILM stayed financially solvent by taking on several outside projects at a time, even as its graphics wizards prepared for the final film in the original Star Wars trilogy. What wasn’t known until the release of this book was that Mark Hamill took notice of ILM’s equal-opportunity space franchise work and brought it up with George Lucas:
“When Hamill heard ILM was working on Star Trek II, he protested to Lucas, ‘You traitors! George, how could you do that?’ To which Lucas replied, ‘It’s a business kid.’”
Some readers may be tempted to assume that Hamill’s disgust was real. I would only remind you that Hamill is quite good at joking.
39. Principal photography on Jedi got off to an inauspicious start.
I’m sure that anyone who was there for the first day of filming will always remember what it was like when production officially commenced. Unfortunately, it wasn’t because everything went as planned. The first scene to be filmed involved the heroes trekking back to the Millennium Falcon in a huge sandstorm after escaping Jabba’s sail barge. But when Marquand shouted “Action!” for the first time, according to The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi author and on-set documentarian John Philip Peecher:
R2-D2 veers off course and careens into a rock. The first camera team doesn’t hear the “action” command over the noise of the wind machines and is still waiting to start. And, finally, the sand blow is so successful it obscures almost everything anyway.
40. “By Madine’s Beard!” The Rebel general’s facial hair was dictated by a Kenner action figure.
Dermot Crowley did not have a beard when he walked onto the set of Return of the Jedi to film his scenes as General Crix Madine in the Rebel briefing room. “The very first morning I was presented with this beard,” Crowley recalled later. “People were quite insistent, so we went with the beard.” Why had the crew been so insistent? As Rinzler writes, “Kenner had already begun preproduction on his character…and the toy had a beard, so Crowley had to match.”