25 Facts On The Making Of The Empire Strikes Back1 - After Star Wars was released, George Lucas stopped doing publicity after a few interviews. Too many people were bringing scripts to his door and asking for money.
2 - In the very early stages of The Empire Strikes Back it was simply referred to as Star Wars: Chapter II.
3 - On the first page of an early outline for Chapter II, George has notes that said "mention lost sister trained Jedi...Luke learn of main plot: Emperor/Empire must be destroyed; restore the Republic."
4 - In other notes, George refers to Kiber Crystals which was also mentioned in drafts for the first Star Wars movie. There's also a new character in the rough notes, Bunden Debannen, "Buffy" who was "three or four thousand years old." Buffy trains Luke and explains that "you can become a physical manifestation of the Force."
5 - Another character called "Mynoc" was described. He was the bad guy. He could manifest as a helpful friend and talk to trees. Mynoc was part human, part computer.
6 - In one set of production notes it was noted that the ILM studios in San Rafel, California still required heating. Parts of the building were cold and other parts warm. Apparently leading to sickness.
7 - George Lucas was dubious about having Ugnaughts or Hogmen as they were referred to during development. George and Irvin Kershner has an argument over them. George was worried that it would depict small people as slaves. Kershner insisted that they are Hogmen, not slaves, they're workers.
8 - When they decided to film in Finse, Norway it was the coldest winter for 100 years. There were even several avalanches which sealed the crew off from the railway line leading to them being stranded at their location for a few days.
9 - It was so cold that the film that was being loaded into the cameras was becoming brittle due to the low temperatures. The camera lenses had to be kept cold too so that ice and snow would not melt on them. At the same time the body of the camera had to be kept warm so the film would run smoothly. A logistical nightmare.
10 - You would think that one thing they wouldn't have to contend with being in such a location with inhospitable weather would be the threat of the press getting exclusive shots. But that didn't stop the British tabloid newspaper, The Sun from wangling a helicopter ride with the British Army who do their winter training there and hovering over the set in Finse. Even a lady from a local newspaper walked several miles on skies. Gary Kurtz was actually impressed by the determination of the lady that he gave her an interview.
11 - The Hamills stayed at a place in Chelsea while filming in the UK and according to the actor it is where Margot Kidder (Lois Lane) stayed while filming Superman.
12 - The interruption of C-3PO and the kiss between Han Solo and Princess Leia was completely improvised. The script simply had Leia moving away from Han. Even Han's lack of interest to the droid about the Falcon's condition was improvised.
13 - Mark Hamill avoided a serious accident when it came to the shooting of the Banta Tank. A serchlight was used from the ground to illuminate the tank. However, this caused a lot of heat and shattered the mirror above the set. Kershner said "just before he went into the thing, the mirrors cracked and these huge pieces of glass came tearing down into the water - and if he had been in the tank, I don't know if he would've survived."
14 - In the scene where Han says to Luke "that's two you owe me," at one point Harrison didn't say this but instead decided to give Mark a kiss causing the crew to burst out laughing.
15 - The interior sets for the ice caverns were not a favourite of Irvin Kershner. He recalls "the interior set for the ice caverns were pretty painful...We were living for days in these man-made caverns that were covered with salt for glistening effects. There was so much salt that it got into our lungs, our pores. We could taste the salt all day and all night."
16 - At one point George Lucas decided to stay on the set for a few days. Irvin Kershner was asked if he felt inhibited by having George around. "Not at all," he replied "It was like having the toy-maker present, but he didn't play with the toys."
17 - It was a nightmare trying to keep the plot to The Empire Strikes Back a secret. Even the cast were under fire for dropping a few leaks. Lucasfilm had decided to keep tabs on the cast and at one point the report read "Harrison Ford, one leak; Carrie Fisher, one leak; David Prowse, nine leaks!" Prowse was notorious for leaking a bit of information about the film. "He doesn't mean to" said Hamill " He just has this real child-like quality to please." In the end they gave Prowse dummy scripts with lines that would ultimately be different in the movie.
18 - Because production was so far behind, a visit by Prince Charles to the set was cancelled.
19 - Gary Kurtz was not a fan of the Falcon cockpit set. "It was very close quarters to start with and a lot had to go on in there...Some of the action was very difficult to actually perform." Also present was a bluescreen. Mark Hamill had a theory about the screen, "the bluescreen gives off rays that penetrates the brain and makes you crazy...Harrison really flipped out once, picked up a saw and started sawing through the console of his spaceship, which looks like metal but is made of wood. Everyone was saying 'you stop him,' 'No, you stop him.' I sure wasn't going to volunteer - I had no desire to wind up on the floor."
20 - Carrie Fisher recalls the time Eric Idle had returned from Tunisia and the filming of Life of Brian. "He brought over what I believe he called "Tunisian Table-Cleaner which was a beverage. Well, Harrison come over and the Rolling Stones came over and I think we stayed up most of the night. So when we arrived at Cloud City, we were very happy."
22 - During her last days of filming in the UK, Carrie Fisher had discovered from a telephone conversation with her mother that someone had threatened to kidnap Carrie. Ultimately for the last few days, she was assigned bodyguards.
23 - During the junk room set, Irvin Kershner was hit on the head by a cable gun. This resulted in the director having headaches over the next few days.
24 - John Williams on recording the score for The Empire Strikes Back. "We did 18 sessions of three hours each spread over a period of two weeks...That's quite a bit of time, but we had a lot of music. In a normal symphonic setting, you wouldn't need 18 sessions to record an LP with an hour-long piece on either side. But in recording for film, you have problems of synchronization that slow down the process. But I would say that music in film is a very new thing relatively. We've just begun to understand the audiovisual process, the very subtle and complex affair that is seeing/hearing. How much do we hear when we see?"
25 - In early 1980, Hamill had said "I don't think Empire Strikes Back can become a phenomenon. You can't take people by surprise like we did the first time. There's been so much down the pike since we came out. But I think it's going to be a smashing success."
Well Mark, it was and is still a phenomenon 40 years later.
Brad's Bonus Bytes
The Bearded Trio's Brad Monastiere has compiled extra bonus behind-the-scenes facts on The Empire Strikes Back:
1 - The Imperial March was not the “original” theme used to represent Darth Vader and the Empire. There was a different theme used in “A New Hope,” that was revived for Rogue One when Vader is first introduced.
2 - The music played when Luke’s hand is cut off and Vader reveals his true parentage was not officially released until 1993. “Losing A Hand” was the track that plays under this historic scene. It didn’t appear on any soundtrack release until the Star Wars Anthology 4-CD release in November of 1993.
4 - Brown or blue? Han Solo’s cold-weather outfit he wore on Hoth is brown. It appears blue on film due to extensive post-production color grading. Many Hoth Han consumer products depict him wearing a blue coat, including the 1980 Kenner action figure. Modern versions of this character have been released with blue and brown coats.
5 - One of the members of Rogue Squadron wore the same helmet - without the blast shield - Luke wore in his training session on the Millennium Falcon in “A New Hope.”
6 - Boba Fett’s backpack and wrist gauntlets are very different in Return of the Jedi compared to Empire. Those items, painted in the United States, were a mix of red, yellow and green. However, those items appear on actor Jeremy Bulloch for filming in the UK, as primarily green. No one involved in the production of the costume can explain the difference. They can only speculate that the more-green look to those items during the filming of Empire came as a request from director Irvin Kershner.
7 - More Han Solo costume controversy: His long-sleeved jacket worn in Empire, traditionally known as his Bespin look, is not navy blue. It’s a light stone color, sort of gray-ish. Costume designer John Mollo says putting the color navy blue on film is very difficult. “It tends to turn black,” he says. “If you want someone wearing dark blue, you have to put them in a lighter color.”
8 - Two different stormtrooper armors were utilized in the filming of Empire. But only one shot of the “Mark II” armor exists on film, used in the Carbon Freezing Chamber. The newly created armor was saved for promotional appearances in the time leading up to Empire’s release. Very minor differences exist in the Mark II armor that was used in the filming of Return of the Jedi.
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