Monday, July 8, 2013

Star Wars: Episode IV - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Darth Vader: You have learned much, young one.
Luke: You'll find I'm full of surprises.

After regrouping and establishing a new base, the rebels find themselves invaded by the Empire.  This event causes a stir and chaos, separating Luke Skywalker and R2-D2 from fellow comrades Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO.  Not all is lost, however, as Luke takes advantage of this opportunity to take advanced Jedi training from Yoda.  Meanwhile, Han and Leia and the others find themselves constantly pursued by the evil lord, Darth Vader.

Before it was known as "Star Wars: Episode V -- The Empire Strikes Back," the sequel film to the enormously huge hit, "Star Wars," was simply known as "The Empire Strikes Back."  It made its U.S. premiere in Washington D.C. May 17, 1980 and would be followed by its Royal premiere in the U.K. 3 days later before making its wide release in both areas on May 21, 1980. 

Costing an estimated $18 million to make, "The Empire Strikes Back" went on to gross over $290 million in just the U.S. alone, making it the #1 box office hit of 1980.  Having already been well established in his career as a director, Irvin Kershner directed what would become a multi-Oscar nominated film, winning the Academy Award for Best Sound and the Special Achievement award for Visual Effects.  It was also Oscar nominated for Best Art/Set Direction and Best Original Score by John Williams.  Though John Williams didn't win the Oscar, he did win both the BAFTA and Golden Globe awards for his achievement.

Returning to their roles in "The Empire Strikes" back were Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), and David Prowse (Darth Vader).  Sir Anthony Hopkins also returns as Ben "Obi-wan" Kenobi and Billy Dee Williams makes his appearance as Lando Calrissian.  Believe it or not, even R2-D2 had a credit: Kenny Baker.  He and Anthony Daniels were the only ones to have been in all 6 "Star Wars" films.  Oh, and if you haven't heard (brace yourself): A 7th film known as "Star Wars: Episode VII) is in its pre-production stage and is rumored to star, once again, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels.  As of yet, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse and Kenny Baker have not been asked to reprise their roles.  Frank Oz (the voice of Yoda in films 2-6) has not been asked, either.

There are many, many bits of trivia to share on "The Empire Strikes Back."  Here are just a few of them...

1.  Irvin Kershner initially turned down the opportunity to direct the film as he felt that it would be too difficult to top the success of "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope."  He took the job when his agent convinced him that he shouldn't pass on the opportunity to make a sequel to one of the most popular movies in history.

2.  Gary Kurtz was initially reluctant for George Lucas to hand over the reins to another director. It was only because Lucas trusted Irvin Kershner, his former teacher at USC, that Kurtz agreed to the move.

3.  In an interview with Cinescape magazine, director Irvin Kershner said that he thought the first film was trashy and how he had no interest in films with special effects. However, he was won over by George Lucas, although Kershner was determined to make the film more about characterizations than hardware. Kershner spent several months working on the script, pushing the writers into humanizing the characters more (something that Lucas has often been criticized for failing to do).

4.  Leigh Brackett succumbed to cancer shortly after completing her first draft of the script of the film.

5.  In Leigh Brackett's original draft of the script, Darth Vader was not Luke's father. The character of Anakin Skywalker actually appeared in the film as a Force ghost to train Luke. Anakin's characterization was later split into the characters of Yoda, and to allow Obi-Wan Kenobi to appear in the film.  Also...

6.  Leigh Brackett's first draft of the screenplay contained the revelation of Luke's sister, her existence disclosed by the ghost of Anakin Skywalker. Referred to as "Nellith Skywalker", Anakin explains that it was he, not Obi-Wan, who separated the twins at birth to protect them from Darth Vader, and that Nellith also underwent Jedi training in another part of the galaxy so she could join forces with Luke to defeat the Sith. This concept was dropped in the second draft of the screenplay, along with the appearance of Anakin Skywalker and replaced with a scene of Obi-Wan and Yoda discussing how they must find another Jedi apprentice in anticipation of Luke's failure. This too changed in later drafts, resulting in the more ambiguous scene in the final version where Yoda assures Obi-Wan that "another" exists.

7.  A total of 64 sets were constructed for the movie.

8.  There seems to be many stories behind Alec Guinness and his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi. In George Lucas' original treatment (When it was ALL one story instead of a trilogy), Obi-Wan lives throughout the whole story (A fact confirmed by Lucas in the DVD Commentary). However, Obi-Wan ends up getting killed off in the first film ("Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope). There are many stories as to why Lucas changed it.  There are some stories that either Guinness demanded that Obi-Wan was killed off so he wouldn't have to appear in any sequels or Lucas did it on his own much to the bitterness of Guinness.  In the "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope  DVD Commentary, Lucas says that he felt it was a waste of Guinness's talents to have him stand beside Leia in the control room during the Death Star battle (as it was scripted) and too outlandish to have the elderly Obi-Wan join the dogfight. So he killed off Obi-Wan in order to spur Luke on to going into Jedi training and defeat the Empire. In any event, when it came time to make Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980), in which Luke begins his training, Lucas drew from the "ugly creature with mystical powers" mythological archetype (as he did when creating Star Wars) and created Yoda as Luke's new Jedi master. Eventually, Alec Guinness was lured back into the role of Obi-Wan when he was promised more money. Therefore creating the "force spirit" motif that remains throughout the rest of the films, including the new trilogy.  On that note...

9.  During principal photography it remained unclear if Sir Alec Guinness would return as Obi Wan Kenobi. Guinness was suffering from an eye infection at the time and was still a bit upset about the last minute decision of his character being killed off in the previous film.  He finally did agree and worked one day on the film: Wednesday, September 5, 1979.  Obi-Wan only appears twice in the film. Sir Alec Guinness performed the scene forgoing his fee, as a favor to George Lucas.

10.  Billy Dee Williams had previously auditioned for Han in "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope."

11.  Yaphet Kotto was offered the role of Lando Calrissian, but turned it down because he believed he would be killed off and it would be difficult for him to find work after that. 

12.  The sound of R2-D2 moving was produced by recording the sound of a car window motor in operation.

13.  Eight Artoo Detoos (R2D2) were used in the making of "Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back."  Kenny Baker used two that were lighter and more comfortable than the ones from "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope."  Three were dummy versions which could be damaged and another three were remote controlled.

14.  Second unit director John Barry joined the film after quitting the film "Saturn 3" following a dispute with that film's star, Kirk Douglas. Barry died of meningitis during production.

15.  Director Irvin Kershner provided the voice of Darth Vader himself in the temporary mix of the film, before James Earl Jones recorded the final version.

16.  Original start date of shooting at Elstree was slated to start in March 1979 but was delayed for three months because at that time, set 3 of the studio which was used for "The Shining" was burned down and had to be rebuilt at a higher scale.

17.  Several crates of simulated snow as seen on the Hoth Hangar set were taken along to Finse, Norway, just in case there was not enough real snow lying about.

18.  Originaly, the scene where Han rescues Luke on Hoth was to have been filmed at Elstree Studios, and only Mark Hamill was needed on location in Finse, Norway. But when a blizzard made it impossible to film anywhere but near the hotel, Harrison Ford was summoned to Finse, anyway. Unable to travel by train, he arrived in the engine compartment of a snow clearance vehicle.

19.  Producer Gary Kurtz directed the scene in which Luke flees the Wampa ice cave. Kurtz took over John Barry's second unit duties after Barry suddenly died on the set, and until his replacement, Harlet Cokeliss, arrived.

20.  Carrie Fisher traveled to the filming location of Finse, Norway, even though she was not scheduled to take part in any outdoor scenes.

21.  Carrie Fisher stood on a box for many of her scenes with in order to Harrison Ford make up for the height difference and have her appear in the frame with him. Carrie is about a foot shorter than Harrison.

22.  The AT-ATs were inspired by the walking machines in H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds" and their appearance was based on gantry cranes which are used in most shipping ports in the USA. Walking patterns of elephants were studied to make the movements seem as realistic as possible.

23.  The sound of the Tauntauns was produced by recording the sound of an Asian sea otter named Moda.

24.  When shooting on location in Norway, a fierce snow storm hit the hotel where cast and crew were staying. This would have normally halted filming, but director Irvin Kershner thought these weather conditions were an excellent opportunity to film the scene where Luke wanders through the snow after escaping the Wampa cave. He did this by sending Mark Hamill outside into the cold, while he and the cameraman stayed and filmed inside the hotel's front hall.

25.  The entire sequence with the Wampa attack was designed to explain the difference in appearance of Mark Hamill, who, in reality, had been in involved in a car accident in between shooting and had a large chunk of his nose missing. Noticeably, Kershner does not show much of Hamill's nose before the Wampa attack. The scene, however, was part of the story before Hamill's accident.  Mark Hamill's car accident could have been fatal for Mark.  When Hamill asked Lucas what he would have done if Hamill had been killed in the accident, Lucas told him that he would not have recast the part of Luke. Instead, a new character would have been introduced that would be linked genetically, in some way, to Luke. This link would also explain the new character's strength in the Force. 

26.  The shots where Luke uses his Jedi powers to retrieve his lightsaber from a distance were achieved by having Mark Hamill throw the lightsaber away and then running the film in reverse.

27.  During the filming of the Battle of Hoth, the Echo Base troops were actually Norwegian mountain-rescue skiers. In exchange for participation in the film, Lucasfilm made a donation to the Norwegian Red Cross.

28.  George Lucas decided that a battle on an ice planet was necessary because he felt that it was easy to "cheat" in space, because the background was black and you could hide errors easily. With a white background, the effects crews would have to work much harder, and the effects would be much more impressive.

29.  In an early outtake, when Vader entered the Hoth base, he tripped over a cable and fell down face-first.

30.  A total of 16 sets of Luke's combat outfit (aka "Bespin fatigues") were made.

31.  The Dagobah set needed to be elevated to give Frank Oz and three other puppeteers room to control the Yoda puppet from below. For proper interaction, Mark Hamill was given an earpiece so he could hear Oz doing Yoda's voice. On numerous occasions, director Irvin Kershner would give a direction to Yoda by mistake and Oz would have to remind him who to talk to.

32.  The scenes where R2-D2 is submerged in the mud pool were shot in George Lucas' unfinished swimming pool. Most of the crew were hidden under the water and the entire sequence was shot by George Lucas himself.

33.  Jim Henson, a friend of George Lucas, was offered the role of Yoda. Henson turned it down, but suggested it to Frank Oz.

34.  Mark Hamill had to bang his head 16 times on the ceiling of Yoda's hut before the director was satisfied.

35.  George Lucas was so impressed by Frank Oz's performance as Yoda that he spent thousands of dollars on an advertising campaign to try and get him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.  Lucas's campaign ultimately failed because it was felt that a puppeteer wasn't an actor.

36.  For the Dagobah scenes, Mark Hamill was the only one listed on the callsheets as an actor. Everyone else was listed as crew.

37.  As Yoda and Obi-Wan urge Luke to stay on Dagobah to finish his training, Luke pulls a snake from his spaceship. Irvin Kershner assured Mark Hamill that the snake was harmless, though it did bite him during one take. 

38.  The entire Millennium Falcon was built live size for the first and only time for this installment (only half of the spacecraft was constructed for "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope" and just part of it was used for the deleted sandstorm scene in "Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi"). It measured 65 feet in diameter and 16 feet in height with a mandible giving it an overall length of 80 feet. The Falcon's weight was 23 tons.  The Millennium Falcon was constructed in a hangar at Pembroke Docks where great flying boats were made in the 1930s. It was brought to Elstree studios, London in sixteen interlocking sections by a convoy of trucks. After reassembly, the Falcon was floated into position on the then brand new Star Wars stage by means of compressed air pads similar to those used on hovercraft.

39.  In the asteroid scene, one of the asteroids is actually a shoe. The rumor is that George Lucas  asked the SFX people to redo the scene so many times that they got annoyed and one of them threw in their shoe.  Another of the asteroids is actually a potato. It appears just as the Millennium Falcon first enters the field. Two asteroids travel from the top left to the bottom right corner of the screen. Just after the second asteroid leaves the screen a third one appears in the top left corner. This is the potato.

40.  The concept design for Cloud City was originally created for "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope" (as a floating Imperial prison), but was never used.  The design was recycled for use in this film.

41.  The scene in the Cloud City apartment where Han Solo enters to tell Princess Leia that the repairs on the Millennium Falcon are almost complete played out differently in the finished film than it did in the original script. There, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is lounging around in the apartment when Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) enters, having changed from the white combat clothes she wore on Hoth to the brown dress and having her hair done up differently. In surprised reaction to how she's dressed, Solo attempts to flatter her ("You look beautiful. You should wear girls clothes all the time.") and Leia teases him by mentioning Luke; the scene ended with them sharing a kiss. The film was originally shot this way, but director Irvin Kershner felt it wasn't coming out right, so he re-shot it to appear as it does in the finished film. Excerpts of how the scene was originally filmed can now be seen on the special edition DVD.

42.  In the original script when Lando is about to lead Han, Leia, and Chewie into the trap set by Darth Vader, Lando offers his arm to Leia, as a gesture to lead her down the hallway and she accepts it.  Harrison Ford ad-libbed Han coming up behind Leia and offering his arm to her at the exact same moment to imply that Han was jealous.

43.  When Han Solo is about to be frozen, Princess Leia says, "I love you." In the original script, Han Solo was supposed to say, "Just remember that, Leia, because I'll be back," but at the time of filming, Harrison Ford wasn't entirely certain he did want to come back for a third film. There is a recurring legend that his line, "I know", was ad-libbed; however, Alan Arnold's book "Once Upon A Galaxy: A Journal of the Making of The Empire Strikes Back" includes a transcription of the discussion between Ford and Irvin Kershner in which Ford suggested the line.

44.  Having Han Solo frozen in carbonite was (at least in part) due to the fact that they were not sure that Harrison Ford would return for a third film. When the original "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope" was made Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill were signed for a three picture deal, but Harrison refused. Harrison even requested George Lucas to kill off Solo, since the character had played its part already, but Lucas refused, saying that he still had a heroic part for Han Solo to play in "Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi."

45.  The lightsaber fight scenes set in the carbon freezing chamber tend to focus on Luke. This is because during many of the shots, Bob Anderson (Vader's fight double) was not wearing the Darth Vader helmet, as it made it difficult for him to breathe. 

46.  The chasm deep in the heart of Bespin in which Luke and Vader have their lightsaber duel was created using a matte painting. The same strategy was used in the original film in the scene where Luke and Leia blast Stormtroopers across an inactive bridge.

47.  Security surrounding this movie was so intense that George Lucas had regular reports about "leaks" from actors. George Lucas was so determined that the ending be kept secret that he had David Prowse (Darth Vader) say "Obi-Wan killed your father," and dubbed it later to be "I am your father."  In fact, only five people eventually knew about the ending before the film's release.

48.  With the exception of being sucked out of a Cloud City window, Mark Hamill did all of his own stunts.

49.  During production, Mark Harmill's wife gave birth to their first son (Nathan Hamill) early one morning.  Mark went straight from the hospital to shooting. This was the day they filmed the shots of Luke hanging by the weather vane below Cloud City, on Bespin.

50.  Producer Gary Kurtz's wife Meredith organized a picnic on the Dagobah set for the wrap party on Friday, August 31 1979.

51.  In order to avoid sharing creative rights, George Lucas decided to avoid using a major studio to finance this film. Instead, he bankrolled the $33 million production himself, using a combination of his profits from "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope" and a bank loan. Although the move was risky, it paid off several times over. Lucas recovered his million investment within three months of the film's release. He then showed gratitude far beyond the Hollywood norm, by sharing the profits with his employees (nearly $5 million in bonuses).

52.  Months prior to the film's release, John Williams was named Conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra. During Williams first televised performance with the Orchestra on PBS's Evening At Pops, he publicly premiered some of the new scoring pieces he composed for the movie.

53.  The only Star Wars film not to gross $300 million domestically.

And now you know.

I was 12 years old when this film came out.  I remember packages of trading cards with bubble gum being sold at convenience stores.  Because it was possible to collect all 200 cards, I bought many, many packages.  So many, in fact, that I eventually collected all 200 cards.  I was proud of that collection.  Then, one day whilst I was away at summer camp, my mum and da, not knowing how valuable they were to me, sold them at a garage sale.

Thanks, mum and da.

Anyway, here are some pictures stills from the film for you to enjoy, as well as behind-the-scenes pictures rarely seen...

Luke: I can't. It's too big.
Yoda: Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm.

No comments:

Post a Comment