Yesterday, May 21st, marked 40 whole years since Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back hit theatres. There was a lot of celebrating online ranging from posts by Mark Hamill to a new poster to a time capsule video. The Empire Strikes Back is widely considered to be the best movie in the franchise, so it's no surprise StarWars.com pulled out all of the stops. They even shared some stories from the franchise's creator, George Lucas, who revealed the biggest challenge in making the sequel. Apparently, financing the movie was "no small feat" after the success of Star Wars.
“Well, to be very honest, the most challenging aspect was paying for it,” Lucas says now. “In order to be able to take control of the movie, I had to pay for it myself. And in order to do that, I did something my father told me never to do, which was to borrow money. But there wasn’t much I could do because I only had maybe half of the money to make the movie so I had to borrow the other half, which put a lot of pressure on me.”
“I was learning…I don’t like writing,” Lucas added. “In this case, Leigh Brackett died literally the day she turned the first draft of the script in and it wasn’t really much like I had expected or wanted and so I was stuck. I had been working with [screenwriter] Larry Kasdan on Raiders [of the Lost Ark] but he wasn’t finished yet.” Lucas went on to ask Kasdan if he'd tackle a third version of the Empire script with Lucas taking on big plot points in draft number two. “And he said, ‘How do you know I’m a good writer?’” Lucas remembered. “And I said, ‘Well, when you turn in the script, if it’s no good then the deal’s off.” Lucas worked on the second draft “and then while I was reading Raiders, he was writing Empire.”
Earlier this week, StarWars.com looked back at George Lucas witnessing how the final scene played out after the film landed in select theaters. The director found a way to tweak the ending before the rest of the world saw it. The film first debuted in 70mm in more than 100 theaters on May 21, 1980, with its 35mm release not happening until June 18th. In the final scene in which Luke, Leia, C-3PO, and R2-D2 are on the medical frigate while Lando and Chewbacca are on the Millennium Falcon, Lucas thought the geography of the sequences was confusing as it played out in that initial release in regards to where all the characters were. Lucas then contacted the film's editor and the ILM team to let them know they needed to add some shots to help clarify the sequence before the film went wide. You can head to StarWars.com to see the full breakdown of the slight differences between that initial 70mm release and the modifications made for its 35mm release.
The entire Skywalker Saga is currently streaming on Disney+.