Did George Lucas Want to Destroy All Copies of the Star Wars Holiday Special?

TV URBAN LEGEND: George Lucas once said, “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.”

The Star Wars Holiday Special is one of the most bizarre pieces of pop culture ever. A year after Star Wars debuted and was a huge success, they decided to do a TV special while waiting for the sequel to come out in 1980.

All of the major cast members showed up, from Mark Hamill to Harrison Ford to Carrie Fisher…

Of course, so did Bea Arthur…

The idea was that it was a variety special based on the basic concept of Han Solo and Chewbacca traveling to Chewy’s home world, Kashyyyk, to celebrate Life Day (essentially the Wookiee equivalent of Christmas).

The special is also known for having a cartoon in it that officially introduced Boba Fett before he showed up in the next film in the series.

Anyhow, the special was not warmly received and George Lucas clearly made a point to keep the show hidden. It made only a single official airing on broadcast television, but it aired in a number of other countries unofficially and those copies are the ones that places like YouTube air.

So Lucas did not like the special.

However, his dislike for it has created a bit of a legend.

Here’s a quote from the Guardian. I use it because they’re a smart paper, so it means something that they’re saying this:

Lucas has rarely spoken about the Holiday Special, but he once opened up at a fan convention and famously said: “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.”

Here’s the thing – I don’t buy that Lucas ever actually said that.

The number one reason is that I’ve never seen a direct source for the quote. Lucas has given MANY interviews over the years, but I have never found anyone who has provided the source of that quote. Everyone just quotes everyone else who essentially stick with the tried and true cop out citation, “Lucas has been said to have said” or whatever.

Secondly, the only even ATTEMPT I’ve seen as a source for the quote is that Lucas said it at a fan convention in Australia. That’s a problem, since George Lucas has never actually ATTENDED any Star Wars conventions in Australia.

Thirdly, Lucas HAS addressed the Holiday Special in official interviews (as in, interviews with actual sources) and while it is clear that the guy was not a fan of the program, he was also a good deal more diplomatic than saying he wanted to destroy it.

Back in 1987, at a Los Angeles Star Wars Convention (one Lucas actually attended), he mentioned that, “I believe it will be released on videotape. I’m not sure if they’re going to rerun it on television or not.” That, though, was before Lucasfilm acquired all of the rights to the special, which happened a couple of years later.

To Maxim in 2002, “That’s one of those things that happened, and I just have to live with it.”

To StaticMultimedia.com in 2005, “The special from 1978 really didn’t have much to do with us, you know. I can’t remember what network it was on, but it was a thing that they did. We kind of let them do it. It was done by… I can’t even remember who the group was, but they were variety TV guys. We let them use the characters and stuff and that probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but you learn from those experiences.”

All of these quotes are a good deal more sanguine than the infamous quote, right?

Not only that, but, as noted, Lucasfilm acquired the complete rights to the special in the late 1980s, and since then, Lucasfilm HAS done authorized screenings of the special. They are rare, but they have occurred (including one at the Library of Congress). In other words, Lucas HAD the chance to destroy the special if he wanted to and he clearly didn’t. So that would suggest that he did not actually want to destroy it.

I think the most likely scenario is that a representative for Lucasfilm (most likely Steve Sansweet, who HAS attended more than one Australian Star Wars conventions) said the quote and perhaps even attributed it to Lucas, and, hey, it might accurately reflect Lucas’ private views on the subject, but it doesn’t match what Lucas has said otherwise on the topic and since it conflicts with the fact that he clearly DIDN’T destroy the special once he gained the full rights to it, then it doesn’t seem like he truly wanted to destroy it. He just didn’t like it (which is certainly fair enough). Perhaps, by the way, Lucas was instead referring to the BOOTLEG versions of it out there?

Anyhow, with alll said and done, I would have to give the legend as…

STATUS: False Enough for a False.

Be sure to check out my archive of TV Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of TV. Click here for more legends specifically about Star Wars.

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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