By George Bate
In celebration of the 40th anniversary of one of the most iconic films of all time, Titan Comics will soon release a deluxe special edition book dedicated to the making of The Empire Strikes Back! The deluxe special edition offers an insightful deep dive into how George Lucas and colleagues crafted the fan-favorite Star Wars film. Filled to the brim with cool trivia facts, rare behind the scenes photos and production stills, interesting comments from the cast and crew, and more, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – Special 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition will be a welcomed addition to the collections of every Star Wars fan.
In anticipation of its release this June, we’re thrilled to publish an exclusive excerpt from the upcoming book highlighting the Han-Luke-Leia love triangle and the iconic “I know” scene from The Empire Strikes Back.
Right before Han, Leia, C-3PO, and Chewbacca arrive on Cloud City to have the Millennium Falcon’s hyperdrive repaired, the Imperials reach the mining colony with a demand. To protect the independence of his facility, and his life, Lando Calrissian has no choice but to give in. Betrayed by his old friend, whom he actually never trusted in the first place, Solo is therefore tortured in order to lure Luke Skywalker into a trap and later frozen in carbonite as a test—because Darth Vader wants to be sure that when it’s Luke’s turn, he won’t be killed. It’s the darkest moment for the rebels, but for Leia and Han it’s also the most emotional, the culmination of their love story.
THE ORIGIN –
As he stated in a 1977 story conference, George Lucas was planning to develop the romantic connection between Leia, Han, and Luke in the sequel to Star Wars: “Han would state his position, sulks off. It should be very mature in the way it works. It’s not until later that we realize that Leia doesn’t love Luke. It has got to be a real triangle with real emotions; at the same time, it has to end up with good will. Luke has gone off to learn the Force and the ongoing story continues with Leia and Han. The Empire continues to chase them. We keep them in a constant danger situation.” Looking for a traditional and effective way to set up the relationship between his heroes, Lucas thought about Gone with the Wind (1939) and initially visualized Han as Rhett Butler, Leia as Scarlett O’Hara, and Luke as Ashley Wilkes. Taking inspiration from the well-known characters played by Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, all the drafts focused on the tension between the princess and the smuggler, creating an equally iconic couple. In the second draft, for example, when the two argue about Solo leaving because of his debt with Jabba the Hutt, he tells her: “They say I kiss very well. But don’t worry, I’m not going to kiss you here—you see, I’m quite selfish about my pleasures and it wouldn’t be much fun for me now.” The scene remained in the following drafts, but the line was changed to: “Afraid I was going to leave without giving you a goodbye kiss?” To which Leia replies: “I’d just as soon kiss a Wookiee.” In another scene featured in the second draft, Leia and Han exchange their first kiss aboard the Millennium Falcon. This scene as well made it to the final script and was shot, but not exactly as planned, due to the director’s improvisation on set: in the script, Leia moves away from Solo; in the film, it’s C-3PO who interrupts them. “I think he’s rather disconcerted throughout the film that he’s not human,” said actor Anthony Daniels (C-3PO). “He doesn’t quite understand what kissing is because if there’s one thing a robot isn’t into it’s kissing.” It’s only on Cloud City that the two really express their feelings for each other, but, once again, it was the set that established how this would happen.
THE SET –
On June, 18, 1979, Irvin Kershner, the cast, and the rest of the crew were shooting the carbon freezing chamber scene. It wasn’t the easiest set to work on. Built inside Stage 4 at the Elstree Studios, England, 12 feet above the ground, it was completely filled with steam, “which made it photographically very impressive, but physically very uncomfortable” as director of photography Peter Suschitzky described it. Besides, dozens of arc lights raised the temperature. Story-wise it was also a tense moment for Princess Leia and Chewbacca who had to watch Han being frozen in carbonite before their eyes. In Kasdan’s final draft, after one last kiss, Leia was supposed to say to Han: “I love you. I couldn’t tell you before, but it’s true.” And he was supposed to reply: “Just remember that, ’cause I’ll be back.” Kershner, though, was not sure about the dialogue and discussed it in detail with Harrison Ford (Han Solo). Helping the director explore Han’s personality, Ford came up with a different line: “Yeah, I know. Don’t worry, I’ll be back.” Then, as the conversation went on, the actor realized what his character should’ve said. As we know from a live recording of that day, Ford’s exact words were: “If she says, ‘I love you,’ and I say, ‘I know,’ it’s beautiful and it’s acceptable and it’s funny.” The change worked. As actress Carrie Fisher recalled later, the cast and crew laughed for about 15 minutes watching the dailies. “It works because they actually can make the transition from that laugh into the fact that it is something very sad.”
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – Special 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition releases this June and can be pre-ordered here.
Images courtesy of Titan Comics